If the Mystery Writers of America had an award for "Most Unusual," Penny Warner's "Dead Body Language" is a sure-fire candidate. From the very first sentence, Warner's Connor Westphal captivates us with her unique blend of humor, mystique, and just plain weirdness: "I licked the tip of my murder weapon, then hesitantly sipped my mug of coffee as if it were strychnine." Not to worry--Connor's one of the good guys. Her "murder weapon" is a pencil (she's devising a mystery puzzle for her weekly newspaper) and the only thing wrong with her coffee is that it's a poor substitute for her beverage of choice, a Starbuck's mocha.
Connor lives in Flat Skunk, an old gold mining town near Sacramento. The town's inhabitants are engagingly eccentric--the cast of characters includes "Sluice" Jackson (a crazy old prospector), Celeste Camborne (a "grief counselor" for the Memory Kingdom, a local mortuary chain), and Beau Pascal (proprietor of the Mark Twain Slept Here Inn).
The plot of "Dead Body Language" is well-constructed and entertaining. When Lacy Penzance, a prominent citizen of Flat Skunk, turns up dead in the town cemetery, Connor decides to do a little digging around to uncover the truth. Connor's detecting skills are even more impressive when we consider that she is deaf.
All in all, "Dead Body Language" is well-paced and nicely balanced between character development and action. Warner intersperses humorous comments and situations throughout the novel, preventing it from becoming dreary or overly serious. "Dead Body Language" is definitely worth a read!