Title: A Fabulously Unfabulous Summer for Henry Milch
Series: The Wyandot County Mysteries: Book Two
Author: Marshall Thornton
Publisher: Amazon/Kindle Unlimited
Length: 245 Pages
Category: Murder Mystery
Rating: 5 Stars
At a Glance: Marshall Thornton seems to be going the route of “experience is the most brutal teacher” with this character, and Henry might just be starting to learn a lesson or two from his mistakes, albeit grudgingly. I’m looking forward to seeing where Thornton will take Mooch next, and to see if he quits living up to that nickname.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: In the second Wyandot County Mystery, things are still not going well for Henry Milch. While stuck in Northern Lower Michigan helping his Nana Cole recover from a stroke, he learns that her favorite pastor has been killed. When Nana Cole asks him to investigate, he refuses—until she offers him money. Money that will help him get back to real life in West Hollywood. That sets Henry off on a journey that includes: off-key choir rehearsals, pole barns, bad haircuts, a hunky doctor and too many get-well-soon casseroles.
Review: Henry “Call me Mooch” Milch is quite the character. He’s the proverbial big city square peg who doesn’t fit into the backwoods hole of a town that is Masons Bay, Michigan. Henry is self-centered, superficial, irritating, and doesn’t have an appreciation for . . . much of anything but money and drugs. Oh, he’s in deep denial that he has a drug problem too. Getting trapped in messes of his own making is somewhat habitual—like accidentally ODing (although he denies that’s what happened) and self-sabotaging a potentially good thing with a gorgeous doctor—and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find a smidge of satisfaction in watching him suffer the consequences of his decisions. Marshall Thornton seems to be going the route of “experience is the most brutal teacher” with this character, and Henry might, might just be starting to learn a lesson or two from his mistakes, albeit grudgingly. Never let it be said that Mooch enjoys caring about anyone but himself.
Masons Bay is a small, insular town, the kind of place where everyone knows everyone else’s business, casseroles are sent in lieu of sympathy and get-well flowers, and people don’t feel compelled to lock their doors—even when the “Fudgies” (the summer tourists) swarm. Henry’s mother—that term used only in the sense that she birthed him—sent him there to stay with his Nana Cole after he was released from the hospital where he’d been involuntarily detained, with the idea that getting Henry away from the L.A. party scene would sober him up. If he weren’t so consumed with the oxy he says he’s not addicted to and figuring out a way to get back to California, it might still work. He’s also become Nana’s caretaker after a recent stroke, and watching him resent it while also doing it, and watching her resent it while he does it, continues the pattern of their relationship while also evolving it. She’s a cantankerous and crafty old broad, and sometimes I like nothing more than watching her get the best of him.
As isolated and insular as Masons Bay is, it’s no stranger to murder. In fact, Henry got a reward for solving the last murder case, in which he was almost a victim himself. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite the payday he’d expected after the government finished taking a bite, and a credit card company bit off some more. What was left certainly wasn’t enough to get him back to L.A. That’s why, when his Nana Cole tells him she’ll pay him to snoop around a bit and try to find out who killed Reverend Chris Hessel, Henry can’t say no—as much as he wants to. An extra couple grand might be enough to buy a car that will get him cross-country. And then he can just live in it if he has to. But a deal with Nana is never as cut and dried as it seems.
As exasperating and unsympathetic as Henry—and, frankly, a lot of the other people in this town—can be, I do love watching him solve a mystery; he really is perceptive and seems to have an aptitude for the business of uncovering secrets and lies, some of which is owed to him believing that everyone in Masons Bay is weird and suspicious for no other reason than they choose to live there. Some of it is thanks to the fact he doesn’t much care who he antagonizes or offends with a well-aimed question. The truth is he’d make one hell of a good licensed private investigator, but let’s face it, that’s not half as profitable as marrying a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon. As Henry gets deeper into the investigation of who bludgeoned the reverend to death and, more integrally, why they murdered him, the secrets that come out of it give readers as much of a glimpse into the suspects and killer as they do into Masons Bay and Henry too. He can be a nice person when he has to be, something he, and we, are slowly learning.
For mystery purists who want to see justice done at the end of an investigation, or if you simply like things in black and white absolutes, I’ll warn you that A Fabulously Unfabulous Summer for Henry Milch may leave you feeling undone and maybe a little irked by the way things are resolved and in the choice Henry makes to, for better or for worse, let justice resolve itself through the legal system. If no good deed goes unpunished, so too must there be bad deeds that go unpunished, and protecting the secret of an innocent weighs into his decision. If you believe in karma, that you reap what you sow, that what goes around comes around, then someone got what they deserved. It just wasn’t the person I expected. But some is better than none.
Henry Milch has a lot of growing up and maturing to do, but what’s a good redemption arc for a character if an author doesn’t give him a reason to be redeemed? Henry is, no doubt, shallow to the extreme, but I also get the feeling there could be much more to him if he’d only give himself credit for being more than an aging twink. That’s why I’m looking forward to seeing where Marshall Thornton will take Mooch next, and to see if he quits living up to that nickname.
You can buy A Fabulously Unfabulous Summer for Henry Milch here:
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