The Marijuana Murders
Nostalgia City Mysteries, Book #3
By Mark S. Bacon
Author Website: baconsmysteries.com
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie
Nostalgia City executive Kate Sorensen finds the body of a mechanic crushed under an automobile hoist in the theme park’s garage. Accident or murder? Will it impact Kate’s decision to become advisor for one of two competing statewide campaigns to legalize marijuana in Arizona? When the death is ruled a homicide and the DEA stages a surprise raid, park cab driver Lyle Deming is recruited to help solve the murder and find out if the park’s garage is being used to smuggle drugs. The sometimes erratic ex-cop is soon poking around a Mexican border town, looking for a park contractor who might be a drug mule. Or he might be dead. Meanwhile, Kate is dragged into a dangerous, high-stakes race to control the legal pot market in Arizona. Amid setbacks and threats, she and Lyle must sort through a tangle of complex evidence and shifty suspects. Then there’s another murder. The Marijuana Murders is the third novel in this mystery series set in Nostalgia City, a theme park that re-creates—in every detail—a small town as it would have appeared in the 1970s. (Goodreads)
Nostalgia City is a popular destination for tourists, especially baby boomers who grew up in the 1960’s and 70’s. The setting is fun to learn about and the characters are somewhat well-defined. The mystery is intriguing, especially with some of the interesting tie-ins. Included are some political and current events which go well with the setting of the City and the current desire to make marijuana legal for all adults, not just those with the medical cards for it.
This series presents a unique theme park in the northern Arizona desert. Nostalgia City is north of the Phoenix area and many retirement communities. It began as a school project for the niece of the billionaire owner, and he thought it to be the next perfect venture for him to turn to reality. Nostalgia City is set up as if it were the 60’s – 70’s and is known for their excellent fleet of muscle cars that people can rent during their stay. Employees, except for the security chief, are not allowed to have cell phones with them in town.
A theme park of this size and depth requires a huge garage to keep cars in good repair and refurbish the steady supply of classic cars they get in. Kate was in a section of this massive garage in preparation for the arrival of a Phoenix morning television show when a mechanic raised the lift under a huge 1975 classic after seeing what looked like blood pooling around the area. Don, one of their mechanics, was crushed beneath the weighty classic. It doesn’t take long before the conclusion is made that he was murdered. Kate, as VP of Public Relations, had to find a different place to show the reporter.
Unannounced to anyone at Nostalgia City or the local sheriff’s office, the DEA notified television crews that they were going to make a drug bust at the City. Lyle, a cab driver for NC and former Phoenix homicide detective, was at the garage, watching DEA agents destroy a classic that was recently brought in from Mexico. Rather than take the vehicle apart at the usual locations, they smashed all the glass and tore the vehicle apart and found nothing. Nothing resembling any of the drugs sought was found, the DEA agents had to send the press away, and removed themselves from the scene of their destruction. Thankfully, they had not yet heard about the murder in another area of the garage. Lyle and local undersheriff Rey Martinez had never seen DEA folks act in quite the same way, and they most often notified local lawmen before the “bust”. The investigation by the DEA contributes an angle for the murder of the mechanic. Perhaps there is drug smuggling going on with vehicles brought in, and Don either was part of the secrecy, or discovered the smuggling on his own.
In the meantime, Kate meets with Arthur Poole, a man who owns the local headshop in the City, at his request. They have been friends for several years; he had once been the nurse who cared for her mother when she was dying of cancer. He is one of the movers and shakers behind SafeWeed Project, which is attempting to get legalized marijuana on the next ballot. There is another group trying to get their proposition on the ballot, also, but has a much narrower scope for those who grow and distribute the product. Arthur wants Kate to be on his board in a capacity to advise regarding public relations. Knowing how popular weed was back in the day, it could potentially be a huge moneymaker for the City, or a huge liability for those who bring their children.
The characters are defined as well as necessary for their roles; however, I didn’t really feel as if I learned much about Lyle or Kate than in prior novels.
Plot twists and turns are the norm in this classic town, continuing to change who the suspect(s) might be. It kept me guessing through to the surprising end. I might have enjoyed seeing more of the town again, as Nostalgia City keeps its secrets outside of the garage and Arthur’s store this time. The mystery is challenging, especially trying to follow the lines of investigation of the current and past lawmen. I recommend this cozy mystery to those interested in theme parks, well-written mysteries, and how people begin to get proposals on the ballot for a still-controversial issue.