Sunday, January 27, 2013

Review: Naked Came the Leaf Peeper by 12 N.C. Authors

Naked Came the Leaf Peeper arrived in my mailbox when I returned home from visiting my parents at Christmas. I had not previously heard of this book so I wasn't sure what to expect of it. I was still reading Anna Karenina so I put it on my TBR shelf and didn't think about it much until I was cruising twitter and saw the book mentioned by my favorite bookstore in the whole world: Malaprop's.  This book was apparently written in celebration of the bookstores 30th birthday. It was collaboratively written by twelve North Carolina authors as a farcical take on The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo series by Stieg Larrson.
The book is a who done it murder mystery set in Western North Carolina staring a liberal and environmentally friendly girl named Garnell Lee Ray who we learn is in the business of creatively offing people, specifically people who are greedy and people who have murdered her parents. After offing one man using a BRP (for those of you not from the greatest state in the USA that stands for Blue Ridge Parkway) overlook and a potato gun our heroine returns to her campsite and is shot in an assassination attempt  but survives thanks to a binder clip and some duct tape. Suddenly her cover is blown and she's on the lam, but people in Western NC aren't who they appear to be and we're not sure who Garnell can trust.

Title: Naked Came The Leaf Peeper
Authors: Brian Lee Knopp, John P. McAfee, Susan Reinhardt, Tony Early, Gene Cheek, Wayne Caldwell, Fred Chappell, Vicki Lane, Tommy Hays, Alan Gratz, Linda Marie Barrett, Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle
Publication Date: 2011
Publisher: Burning  Bush Press of Asheville
Pages: 190
Where I Got It: Christmas gift from family member
Dates I Read It: January 21 - January 26, 2013
Number of Stars: 3.5/5
Read For:  No challenges, just for fun!

I did enjoy the heck out of this book. I'm not sure that anyone who is not from North Carolina would fully appreciate the full effect of the novel. The novel is basically a love story to the land that is Western NC. It is gorgeous and it is plentiful but it is also in danger. Being as beautiful as it is, naturally developers drool over it and yearn to slash and burn and build (mostly huge housing developments for the wealthy). The book was written in a short-storyesq style where each author got a chapter and had to go on what was previously written to finish out the story. The character development was spotty and shifted somewhat in each chapter, which is to be expected. The characters were credible though. They were human, and as it is set in Western NC, many of them were true to form of the people that you meet there. Sometimes overly stereotypical each character perfectly fit the role that they played and even the most vile of the vile characters (in this case, a Republican politico from Raleigh) plays his part with humor. You knew who the true villains were and the character delineation was very direct.
The story itself was a campy mystery. Each chapter threw a major surprise that topped the one in the previous chapter. It was almost as if you could feel the wink wink, nudge nudge playfulness that each author had with one another. In the end everything came together, albeit in an extremely silly way, and one of my favorite North Carolinian's-  Doc Watson, saves the day. There was one plot hole that I couldn't quite grasp: there are two dancing girls who are aspiring dancers who decide to do a theatrical haunting of haunted places. They appear and have a pretty large part in the story, and then seemingly disappear without fulfilling their role to completion. As the book ended I found myself wondering what ever became of them as the two were not mentioned again in the book.
The writing was light, simplistic and fun and this is a book that you can read in a day. Had it not been for a lot going on at work, I would have. I actually read it in about 2 sittings and I was able to read the majority of the book Saturday morning. The rhythm changed from chapter to chapter, again as to be expected. I could almost pick out the chapters that were written by the two authors that I had read before, Vicki Lane and Fred Chappell. The story satirizes each person in turn and even the town of Asheville that boasts a tagline of "Keep Asheville Weird." The book was itself very weird, but super enjoyable to read. I do not think that I would recommend it to anyone who is not from North Carolina, but if you are from here, especially if you are from, or have ever lived, in Western NC, this is one you shouldn't miss.

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