Why does an elephant hide behind trees? — To trip ants!
I can still feel myself smiling. During my sixth or seventh grade year, someone bought me a shirt with plump, funny, elephants all over it. Underneath the pachyderms were the popular “elephant jokes” of the day, and I wore that top with loving enjoyment of the sillies it brought on. I think I literally wore the thing out.
Reading Footprints in the Butter by author Denise Dietz transported me back to those days of elephant jokes, flower power, and hippies in a delightful murder mystery that is really set in present day Colorado Springs. How can this happen? With a high school class reunion gone awry.
Protagonist Ingrid Beaumont is a singer-songwriter who started her career with a high school group called the Clovers, as in four-leaf. The group split apart as most groups do, but Ingrid kept writing her songs and music. She just gave up on making political statements in favor of making a paycheck.
Unfortunately, a different alum of the Clovers took his art, and his love of corny elephant jokes, too far into the world of the “establishment.” Now Wylie Jamestone has been murdered, and his good bud, Ingrid, is left sifting through the clues of Jamestone’s paintings, jokes, and messy relationships, to figure out who killed Wylie.
The story opens after the latest class reunion is over, and Ingrid has gone to a Bronco’s game, where she’s gotten herself on TV with a rude gesture that would normally embarrass most old-enough-to-know-better people. Lucky for Ingrid, that recorded gesture proves her alibi when the police come to her door to tell her that her good friend, Wylie Jamestone, has been murdered. Bludgeoned with a replica of Rodin’s “The Thinker.” During investigation of the scene, police find a note attached to a Jamestone painting that reads, “Give this to Ingrid. Let the treasure hunt begin.”
Soon Ingrid’s mind is rushing through song lyrics, old expressions, new phrases dropped by old friends to develop suspect lists among some of the people she was closest to in high school. One of those suspects is her first love, Ben Cassidy, who has come back into Ingrid’s life in a big way. Ben is a veterinarian, which is important, because the other love of Ingrid’s life is a gangly mutt named Hitchcock, who is ever faithful and trying-to-please, mostly to dubious success.
The tension rises as Ingrid is nearly poisoned to death, runs off to Texas in search of a fortune-cookie manufacturer, and returns to chaos in the form of her ex-not-quite-ex-husband running from the mob.
This book will challenge anyone who likes a clear step-by-step murder, as Ingrid’s mind and phrasing fire off in a hundred directions at once, but stick with this and you’ll have a great, fun, earthy read.
ABOUT DENI DIETZ
I met Deni as a visiting editor during the 2010 Colorado Gold Conference. She led me through my pitch session (a five to ten minute meet & greet) with the generous type of listening and questions that helped this nervous author to articulate a little better what my own story was about. Since my own experience, I have talked to several other authors who have nothing but great feelings for her.
Deni, also known in romance writing as Mary Ellen Dennis, has an impressive collection of books she’s written, including the Ellie Bernstein diet mysteries. More than 15 novels and contributions to short story anthologies will have you entertained for a long time to come.