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Muletrain to Maggody: An Arly Hanks Mystery (Arly Hanks Mysteries) Hardcover – February 17, 2004


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The blend of mayhem and mirth is as potent as ever in Hess's 14th cozy (after 2001's Maggody and the Moonbeams) centered on the backwoods town of Maggody, Ark. The Stump County Historical Society has funded a documentary film on a local Civil War battle, the Skirmish at Cotter's Ridge of 1863. No one seems all that interested until Miss Harriet Hathaway of the historical society mentions that a shipment of Confederate gold was hidden somewhere during the skirmish and hasn't been seen since. Chief of Police Arly Hanks braces herself for the antics that are sure to follow, as various Maggodians devise plans to find the gold and live a life of luxury thereafter. Dedicated reenactors begin to descend on Maggody, along with various experts involved in the documentary. Among them are a well-known writer of historical romances, her shiftless son, his sluttish fiancee, a historian who often dons the uniform of a Union general and a retired accountant with a passion for genealogical research. One dead body turns up, then another, and Arly has to sort out all the comings and goings of the suspects, and the various motives, and collar the killer before he or she strikes again. With a wit sometimes mordant, sometimes gentle, Hess mines the foibles of those obsessed with the past to offer yet another deliciously funny and deviously puzzling mystery.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Break out the moonshine, whoop, and holler--Arly Hanks, chief of police, and the slightly whacked-out denizens of Maggody, Arkansas, are back. After all of the mayhem caused in the past by visiting pornographers, presumed aliens, and ill-tempered ostriches, Maggody followers can't help but wonder what could possibly happen next. Answer: the Stump County Historical Society's discovery of a Confederate soldier's diary describing a small Civil War skirmish fought nearby and the hiding of a rebel payroll (in gold) on Cotter's Ridge--now famous as the location of the feral Raz Buchanon's still. Egged on by the redoubtable Mrs. Jim Bob Buchanon--wife of the Maggody mayor--the society has decided to make an educational film of the episode, engaging Yankee and Confederate reenactors, along with the services of Corinne Dawk, a Charleston, South Carolina, belle (or, rather, matron) who writes Civil War romances and acts in historical pageants. As usual, Arly anticipates nothing but trouble as everyone begins scrambling through the scrub hunting for lost gold while assorted Billy Yanks and Johnny Rebs trade insults and occasional fisticuffs. Things get serious when the historical society's treasurer is found dead, pushed over a bluff, and poor old Hospiss Buchanon is found clubbed to death shortly after speaking to the treasurer. And--most shocking of all--Mrs. Jim Bob is driven to drink. Hess aims and fires her comic Gatling gun with reckless abandon and great glee, easily retaining her unofficial title as Queen of Very Funny Mysteries. Stuart Miller
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Series: Arly Hanks Mysteries (Book 14)
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (February 17, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743226380
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743226387
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #328,444 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Oh dear, this seems so personal. I was born in Fayetteville, Arkansas, luckily a blue dot in a red state. Did the normal kid stuff, avoided the long arm of the law. I earned a BA in art from the U of A, and a MS in early childhood development from Long Island University. I was teaching art in a preschool (pretty clever combination of the degrees, right?) when a friend suggested I write a romance novel. I wrote ten unpublishable ones before I realized I needed a splash of blood and a slather of humor in my prose and turned to mysteries. The Claire Malloy series came first, followed by the Maggody series. A third series, the Theo Bloomer mysteries, sputtered out after two novels, alas (it was going to be my "travel" series, requiring me to take tax-deductible business trips to do the research).

Now I live in Austin, Texas (also a blue dot, but a bigger one), a ten-minute drive from my absolutely adorable twin grandchildren Jack and Annabelle, soon to be three years old. Please don't ask me if they're identical. Their gracious mother frequently allows me to drop whatever I'm doing and dash over to babysit. And I do.

I'm currently working on my forty-fifth (or so) mystery, a Claire Malloy based on my brief experience in the jury pool. When I'm not babysitting, that is.

Customer Reviews

The stock characters are all there, they haven't changed a bit.
Gloria Siegler
It convinced me that cozies involving colorful characters from back-water regions are not for me.
Alice L. Ramirez
This book wasn't difficult to get into, but the action took a long time to get going.
Jennifer Terry

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on February 24, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Three days before the Battle of Farbersville in Arkansas during the Civil War, there was a skirmish in the small town of Maggody. The Stump County Historical Society has obtained funding to do a documentary on the battle thanks to the donation of the diary of one of the men who fought in that encounter. The diary goes on to say that the confederate troops were carrying gold to pay the soldiers, but when they concluded that they were going to lose, the soldiers hid it in a nearby cove.
The townsfolk go crazy looking for the gold and Chief of Police Arly Hanks has her hands full keeping track of everybody. The treasurer of the historical society Wendell thinks he has a clue where the gold was hidden but he is more interested in his genealogical studies than a treasure hunt. Matters turn very serious when someone kills Wendell. Arly investigates the homicide with plethora of suspects available. A second killing occurs. Once Arly realizes the two homicides are linked, it is only a matter of time before she tracks down the killer.
An Arly Hanks mystery is always a hoot and a holler and MULETRAIN TO MAGGODY is no different. Despite the seriousness of the murders, the storyline focuses on the gold hunt. The characters are funny as they try to outdo each other in searching for the gold while Arly has her hands full keeping everyone in line Joan Hess is in fine form as she produces another extra fine rural police procedural.
Harriet Klausner
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By MZ on April 17, 2004
Format: Hardcover
The latest hijinks in Maggody, Arkansas, centers around a Civil War reenactment and a pot of gold (not, however, at trailer park of same name).
Joan Hess leads her readers down a dusty path, where Charleston socialites meet Conferedate martyrs...followed closely behind by the regular gang of Buchanons and others.
While the Civil War theme served its purpose, it was not what made me flip the pages hurriedly: the best part of this storyline was, as usual, the number of Maggodians who managed to get swept away (literally) in their quest for the gold. Add to it, Hammet's return...and a little love for our hero Arly, and you've got another great tale of mystery and tomfoolery in our favorite Ozark town.
Will Dahlia ever see her granny again (and will Kevin Buchanon be sleeping on the sofa forever)? Will Hammet convince Arly to take him home for good? Will Harve ever get to watch his poetry in skin-tight clothing? Will Mrs. Jim Bob drink wine...in her own house? To solve these mysteries...and maybe a few murders...you'll have to get on the Muletrain to Maggody.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By booksforabuck VINE VOICE on May 30, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Maggody Police chief Arly Hanks's job gets complicated when historians discover that a minor civil war skirmish took place near Maggody--and that the confederate soldiers had hidden their payroll gold somewhere. All of a sudden, missing people reports start to show up as half of Maggody heads for the nearby caves in hopes of discovering treasure and becoming rich. Rumors of treasure and the filming of a documentary about the skirmish (based on a confederate soldier's recently discovered journal) bring out-of-town visitors as well--actors, underemployed professors, and socialites looking for a chance to be seen. But when one of them turns up dead, Arly has to wonder whether it could really be the accident it appears to be--or could it be murder.
Author Joan Hess turns the town of Maggody into her story's main character. From the venial mayor Jim Bob to his wife Mrs. Jim Bob with her fixation on the local minister to the moonshiners and the good-ole-boys of the small Arkansas town, Maggody feels real. Arly has a bit of a love-hate relationship with the town she serves as police chief but she uses the threat of Jim Bob not being able to buy a beer in her mother's bar to make sure she keeps her job long enough to decide where she wants to go next. The escapees from the retirement community, the pig-loving moonshiner, and her mother's friends with their mad plan to break into this historical society all add charm to this nice mystery.
The plot line to MULETRAIN TO MAGGODY slowed down from time to time, but Hess's strong writing kept me involved in the characters even when the story wasn't doing much. Hess's insights into the civil war recreation mentality creates some additional humor to this fine light novel.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 6, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Things were more or less peaceful in the tiny town of Maggody, Arkansas.
Until a diary, written by a Civil War soldier, Private Henry Largesse, describes a battle at Cotter's Ridge in 1863. He claims that two saddlebags of Confederate gold were hidden in the local caves. Unfortunately, the man who hid them, died in the battle before he could tell anyone where they were. And then everyone else, except Private Largesse died in battles over the next two days. The Private, himself made it home, but died of his wounds before he could come back and get the gold.
The local historical society, which found the diary is putting together a reenactment of the battle, and everyone's coming to Maggody.
Arly Hanks, sheriff of Maggody, isn't too thrilled. She has enough problems dealing with the local idiots, without having a swarm of people refighting the Civil War show up.
These include Jack Wallace, the filmmaker, who is an old friend of Arly's from Manhattan.
Meanwhile, people seem to be disappearing in Maggody. Petrol Buchanan, Brother Verber, Dahlia's grandmother and Lottie Estes.
On top of all that, Wendell Streek, one of the historical society people, ends up dead. Was it an accident or murder, and did it have anything to do with the death of Hospiss Buchanan, whom he had visited earlier in the day?
Arly has her hands full, trying to solve the murders, find the missing people, control everyone who's searching for the gold and still have a few hours to play a couple of games of Scrabble with Jack Wallace.
Highlights:
Mrs. Jim Bob Buchanan, putting up the more important members of the group in her home, These include a famous writer of historical novels, her deadbeat son and his fiancee, the fabulously wealthy Sweatpea.
Read more ›
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