from reviewingtheevidence.com –
When a movie crew arrives in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts on the Deerfield River, Frank Raven finds himself guarding the movie’s star, Juliana Velvet Norcross, aka VelCro, a wild young flaming redhead. On the first day of filming, VelCro disappears over the falls, and soon, people are going over the falls in numbers that begin to concern the FBI.
Frank is a retired monk, cop, PI, though still a Morris Dancer (!) who has pretty much withdrawn from the larger world. He meets his match in Nick Mooney, the director of the film who has an obsession with tiny redheads whose names end in A. It becomes Frank’s job to find VelCro, whose body has never surfaced.
Shelburne Falls, pop. 1700, and its fearsome falls, loom large in THE NUTTING GIRL, Frank thinks of VelCro as the nutting girl, the name of a Morris Dance he and his crew were performing for the movie when VelCro went over the falls. Many scenes take place on the rocks above the falls, others on the shores of the rocky river below the falls. When a second young redhead’s body is found below the falls, the plot thickens.
Frank is a philosopher who has lost his faith, but is dogged by his disbelief. No wonder since he was blind and miraculously recovered his sight (or at least half of it) while in the monastery. Frank knows Shelburne Falls like the back of his hand, and is renowned for finding things, which he proceeds to do in the course of the novel.
On the other hand, Nick Mooney, described as bright-eyed, six feet seven and alarmingly skinny, begins to reveal himself as an evil demon. His bevy of redheads, his alcoholism and his nasty tongue are in danger of breaking Frank’s refusal to engage in drinking and violence.
THE NUTTING GIRL is kind of small-town noir. The hero is a washed-out loser and the villain is evil. The town is lovely, like a temptress with a heart of stone, the perfect femme fatale.
The novel often tries our credibility, but then who says crime fiction must always be without flights of fancy? Morris Dancing, miracle cures in a monastery in New Orleans, dying and coming back to life? Really?
This is Fred DeVecca’s first novel, but he should keep at it. He knows how to entertain, and he can build a plot so complicated that the reader will be left guessing right up to the end.
§ Susan Hoover is a playwright, independent producer and retired college English teacher. She lives in Nova Scotia.
Reviewed by Susan Hoover, July 2017
and a great review from Laura Thomas’s blog –
Laura Thomas’s Reviews > The Nutting Girl
Meet Nick Mooney, an up and coming film director. He’s charismatic and a bit self important, but there’s another side to him too. He also wormed his way into my good graces.
And then there’s Nick’s star actress, Velcro. A stunningly beautiful and talented young actress with more baggage than her young shoulders can bear. She was a surprise. Intellectual and spiritual, and a tender soul, hidden behind the glitz and glamour.
Two more character’s I want to mention are Clara and her daughter, Sarah. Frank’s been a loner for a long time and doesn’t think much about it. Something about Clara calls to his loneliness. And Sarah’s zest for life and knowledge is a lure he can’t resist. These two ladies draw him out of his shell, giving him a glimpse at what he could have. I crossed my fingers things would happen for them.
I could go on and on about the characters in this book. All of them reach out to you. You want only good things to happen to them. Alas, this is a mystery about a young woman who apparently drowns in a river. There may not be a happy ever after for some of them.
This is where the mystery gets interesting. Was Velcro pushed or did she jump? Was she dead, or maybe just lost? I honestly didn’t know the answers to any of these questions until I approached the end of the book.
The Nutting Girl is Fred DeVecca’s debut book. You’d never know it. He writes a deep mystery, taking you on a somewhat spiritual journey, with eclectic characters and visual descriptions of a small town setting. I’ll be watching for his next book.