Monday, August 15, 2011

Idaho Code by Joan Opyr

Publisher:                Bywater Books

What makes a good mystery? How about a story you can't figure out until the last pages? What makes for easy reading? How about a bunch of unique characters that will sometimes have you laughing out loud at what they do and say? What makes a good book? How about one that combines both of these traits?

Wilhelmina "Bil" Hardy has one of the most unusual families there could be, even in Idaho. Bil has returned home to recover from a broken heart, attend college and live with her parents, aging liberal hippies who settled in the small town of Cowslip, Idaho, where Bil's grandmother is a leader in the campaign against gay rights. Of the five siblings, three are adopted, two are African American, her sisters are a doctor, a lawyer and a librarian and brother Sam is the town drug addict who, when he isn't in the hospital for cancer treatments, is in jail for petty crimes. And there is where the problem starts. While in the jail for one of his regular visits, Sam's cellmate dies mysteriously and the police want to charge him for the crime. 

The mystery deepens when the dead man is identified as someone who left town during a scandal many years before and left behind a daughter who Bil finds more than appealing. Bil finds herself trying to prove her brother's innocence while also courting the daughter of the man he may have killed. And, just to keep things interesting, she needs to work for gay rights and win her woman while not being "out" to anyone in the town. Throw in the arrival of her old lover with the Lesbian Avengers, her involvement with her friend Tipper and the Radical Faeries, plus the discovery that her mother may have been involved in a murder many years earlier and you have a hero who wishes she could get just a little control of her own life. Then she finds out she's been investigating the murder of the wrong man and is in real danger of flunking out of college. Some days you should just stay in bed.

Idaho Code is Joan Opyr's first novel.  She has a style that combines humor, a great ability to build characterization and a knack for putting enough twists in a story that the reader cannot be sure where it's heading until the very end. Her work is refreshing in that it doesn't follow the "formula" so many lesbian writers seem to admire and she displays a skill that many of them wish they could develop. If you like mystery, you'll like this book. If you like humor, you'll like this book. If you like good writing, you'll like this book. In case it isn't clear, you'll like this book.

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