My name is Utah O’Brien. I’m a sculptor and the mayor of West Elmer, Minnesota. I get up every morning at exactly 4:32 a.m., but not on purpose. Jocko, my Border collie, is my four-legged alarm clock. He’s also my best friend, and I hardly ever go anywhere without him. In our small town he’s welcome almost everywhere.
Jocko is a very well-behaved dog and he almost always follows the rules – but when he makes up his own mind about things, the results can be rather dramatic.
One time, I told him to stay. Fortunately, he had other plans, and he saved Mort Schwaab’s life. Another time, he took off after a skunk, got sprayed, and while he was wallowing around in the snow to rub off the stink he found a dead body. The sheriff couldn’t find any signs of foul play, so Mort Schwaab and I had to do some investigating on our own to find out what really happened to the woman. She had two children who spent the next few days with us at the museum, and our little family became very attached to them.
I live in a small apartment at the back of a private museum, across the street from Angie’s diner. The museum is in a big old Quonset hut that used to be a feed and seed store. Now it’s filled with giant sculptures of extinct North American animals.
I built all those sculptures myself with the help of my neighbors here in West Elmer, and I can’t imagine living anywhere else. My apartment gets a little crowded, though, because so many people hang out there. My friend Sam Two Hawk moved in last year, along with Molly, his retired search and rescue bloodhound. My mother, Josie O’Brien, sold the diner to Angie and now lives out back of my place in a little vintage trailer. Her friend Mort Schwaab, a retired sheriff, keeps his chickens on my lot, too. Josie and Mort eat their meals at my place, and she almost always cooks, which is nice.
My museum closed several years ago because it couldn’t compete with fancier tourist destinations. After the museum closed, I needed a new source of income, so I started selling hand-made masks of wild animals on my website. That business was going very well until someone stole my owl mask and used it to frame me for murder.
By pure coincidence, on that very same day, computer hackers temporarily shut down the international banking system, and that started the recession that put my online store out of business. If it wasn’t for my part-time job as mayor, I’d be unemployed.
And believe me—being mayor of this little town isn’t nearly as much fun as you might think. People know I can’t do anything about the recession, but they call me to complain about it anyway. I’m proud of our town, though. No matter what happens, we find a way to work together and muddle through. We’re going to be OK.
A Lonely Way To Die is the second book in the Utah O’Brien Minnesota mystery series, published by Wet Cat Books, April 2016.
When a stranger dies, secrets come to life . . .
When she was still in high school, Sonje McCrae left this small Minnesota town, changed her name, and never came back—until now.
Less than twenty-four hours after her return, Utah O’Brien finds the woman’s body under six inches of new snow. The sheriff calls it death by misadventure—a fancy way of saying it’s not his problem.
Utah thinks the sheriff is wrong. For the sake of the two children Sonje left behind, she’s compelled to find out what really happened.
As she and her friends dig into the unlikely details of the woman’s life and death, they uncover some of the town’s most closely guarded secrets—and the most shocking secret of all involves Utah’s own family. Now that she knows, her life will never be the same—but does this discovery have anything to do with the death of Sonje McCrae?
You’ll like this book if you enjoy character-driven mysteries that include dogs who take an active, realistic role in the plot. It’s filled with likable small-town characters and plenty of twists and turns to keep you guessing.
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About the author
Jonni Good is a paper mache sculptor, a blogger, and the author of four popular non-fiction books for artists. I grew up in a small town in the state of Washington. I now live in Minnesota with my two dogs and a demanding cat who insists on helping me when I make my YouTube videos.
Jocko, the Border collie in my Utah O’Brien Minnesota Mysteries, is based on several rescue dogs I’ve lived with over the years. One of them is sleeping under my desk as I write this note.
You can find me almost every day on my blog at UltimatePaperMache.com
All comments are welcomed.