By: Charlie Suisman
Publication Date: October 2021
Reviewed By: Barbara Bamberger Scott
In the tiny Hudson River village of Arnold Falls, anything might happen, and this summer will be no exception. As the story of Hot Air opens, we learn that an iconic statue has been stolen – but nobody really cares. Yet later, items far smaller and seemingly of lesser value go missing, and a quiet uproar ensues.
Jeebie Walker is in a newly formed (see the series’ earlier work, Arnold Falls, for details) man-to-man relationship with Will Shaffer. Strolling through the soon-to-be new town park, they hear the mating call of an endangered frog species and Jeebie figures the planned ball field will have to give way to a nature preserve. Readers will see this quality of caring about others manifest again when Jeebie strives to initiate a special program for patients in the pediatric oncology ward of the local hospital, a small but functional facility that has seen better days, its demise becoming the subject of Jeebie’s suspicions.
From the park stroll, the two men will join with others in the community to celebrate the 94th birthday of Aunt Doozy, whose anomalous flatulence issues kept her from following her mother’s trade of town Madam; instead, she has made hundreds happy with her perfect products at the Chicken Shack. Every small town needs tourist attractions, so the former mayor selected a strange wanderer who calls himself Marvin the Hobo, to add more color. The current Mayor is Jenny, whose artful child Wilky is a focus of much of the book’s action and empathic allure. Arnold Falls is so generically small-town that a TV producer has chosen it for a series, bringing to the area a charming actress, Fayette de la Nouille, who is charmed by the local ambience – and maybe by a particular denizen therein.
Things seem to be going swimmingly on most fronts, until very odd, unrelated items begin to disappear, items that seem to have little value – so why steal them? The clues are few and speculations many, most of them fodder for the author’s undeniable gift of amusing gab. Suisman is fond of word play, as some of his character’s names demonstrate: there is Judge Harschly, and an FBI man named simply, Ash Plank. As the author constructs his harmless but hilarious whodunnit, he is careful to keep Jeebie on hand as a first-person observer who is also going through his own struggles, trying to make things better for some needy children, and perhaps change professions in the process – from voice-over guy to local child counselor. But how might that clash with Will’s desire for travel? The answers lie, like the solution to the thievery, somewhere across the ocean.
Quill says: The characters, the setting, the action centered around a tiny town somewhere in rural America make for mystery, madcap episodes, romantic interludes, and high humor in this fast moving, word bending new novel by Charlie Suisman.
For more information on Hot Air (Arnold Falls Book 2), please visit the author's website at: charliesuisman.com