Damsels in Distress by Joan Hess
(Claire Malloy Mysteries, No. 16)

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A Renaissance Fair is coming to the relatively quiet college town of Farberville Arkansas, which is not the sort of news that usually sets local bookseller Claire Malloy's heart racing.  But with Caron, Claire's perpetually petulant teenage daughter, being pulled into volunteering (or face the horror of doing homework over the summer) and her fiancé, Police Lieutenant Peter Rosen, away, Claire finds herself drawn into the strange inner workings of the group putting on the fair.
     But just as Claire has decided that her time might be better spent fretting over the details of her upcoming nuptials, one of the volunteers helping with the Ren Fair falls victim to arson, her body found burned in the wreckage of her rented home. Even stranger, none of the members of the local chapter of The Association for Renaissance Scholarship and Enlightenment (ARSE) - the group putting on Farberville's first RenFair - had ever met the woman in the flesh and can't provide any information about who she is and where she came from.  However, someone is definitely dead and the fire looks very suspicious - but is it murder?  When the fair opens, tensions expose the dark secrets and malevolent schemes that lurk beneath the superficial congeniality of the ARSE members.  The lords are leaping, the ladies are lying, and the knights are fighting--while someone is committing murder most heinous.  And with Claire's dreams of a blissful wedding hanging in the balance, she has no choice left but to fling herself into the battle and match wits with the killer…

About Joan Hess

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JOAN HESS is the author of both the Arly Hanks and the Claire Malloy mystery series, most recently Mummy Dearest. She now lives in Austin, Texas.
Published March 4, 2008 by Minotaur Books. 316 pages
Genres: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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Naturally, after joining history teacher Fiona Thackery, her limp fiancé, Julius Valens, grad student Edward Cobbinwood and other ARSE members at Lanya and Anderson Peru’s potluck, she agrees to take a basket of goodies to Angie, a volunteer who couldn’t make it, and naturally, Angie is burned to...

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Reviewing the Evidence

It's a clumsy setup that only gets more credulity-straining with every turn and every new murder – not the least unbelievable being that Claire could be arsed to investigate the fate of any of these people.

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