February Fever by Jess Lourey
Mira James has had an unbelievable year. She moved from the big city of Minneapolis to small town Battle Lake in outstate Minnesota last May. Since then she has discovered dead bodies every month. Every. Month. Jess Lourey’s latest Murder by Month book staring Mira, FEBRUARY FEVER, takes place in, well, February. That makes at least 9 dead bodies that Mira has stumbled upon since May. She realizes that this is getting a little strange and cringes when she has to flip the calendar to a new month. A new month means the potential for finding a new stiff.
Mira developed a serious crush on local eye-candy Johnny Leeson when she arrived in Battle Lake, but they are now officially a couple. Just as the pair are getting comfortable in their roles as boyfriend/girlfriend, Johnny accepts a months-long internship in Portland, Oregon. Great opportunity for Johnny, bad timing for the couple.
Mrs. Berns, Mira’s septuagenarian best friend and side-kick, convinces her to go to Portland to visit Johnny and attend the International Private Investigator Conference (Mira’s constant discovery of dead bodies might as well be turned into a profession!). The only kink in this plan is that Mira doesn’t fly. Ever. For any reason. Mrs. Berns takes this opportunity to book the pair seats on the Valentine’s Train, a meet and mingle event for singles inspired by the holiday. The two head out West with local stoner, Jed, who just happened to be going to Portland anyway and joined them on their adventure. Also, if Mira isn’t in Battle Lake, she may be able to reverse her dead body curse.
No such luck. A woman is killed in the sleeper car next to Mira and Mrs. Berns. The duo put on their private detective hats to figure out who killed the woman and find the dead woman’s missing little girl. Not everyone on the Valentine’s Train is looking for romance. Some of them are trying to run from their past before it catches up with them.
You might call me a Jess Lourey hipster: I’ve been reading her books since her debut with MAY DAY in 2006. Lourey’s writing gets stronger and more confident with each book. With the exception of a couple scenes, FEBRUARY FEVER takes place entirely on the train. Mira, Mrs.Berns, and Jed don’t have the regular cast of characters from Battle Lake to interact with. The confined location and limited number of people help build the tension of the book. There are only so many people on the train and so many places for someone to hide. You know the murder has to be on the train, but who is it?
For what started out as a light hearted series, these books have taken a dark turn with the last couple of installments. Lourey provides a very meaty conclusion to FEBRUARY FEVER that I never saw coming and it totally pays off. I may have gotten a little choked up during one of the closing scenes, but I’ll never admit it. Mira James hints at what the future may hold for her after she returns to Battle Lake. There are only 2 months remaining in the series and I can’t wait to see what Mira does next.