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4.1 out of 5 stars
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on July 16, 2004
I loved this book so much I read it in one day! The many characters in Maggody are just that characters. It is a small town in Arkansas where Arly Hanks is the Police Chief. She has her hands full in this book as she is roped into being a chaperone for the church youth group. They are going to Camp Pearly Gates to do some volunteer work to built bleachers. Mrs. Jim Bob Buchanon, the mayor's wife, and Brother Verber, the local preacher, would make it interesting enough, but then she also has the high school shop teacher and ten teens to keep in line.
When the body of a white-robed woman turns up on the campgrounds, life gets even more complicated for Arly. Then there's the man she found fishing on the campgrounds. Not to mention all the reported sightings of ghosts. Once her mother Ruby Bee and her best friend Estelle show up, things get even more interesting.
Ruby Bee runs Ruby Bee's Bar & Grill. Due to a recent fire in the kitchen, she is out of business for a couple weeks. So she brings all her food up to the camp to feed the kids. They are happy because the menus that Mrs. Jim Bob had prepared were nutritional but not what the kids would want to eat!
As Arly begins investigating the apparent murder, she uncovers a community of women and children living on the campgrounds but that has a lot of mystery as to who they are and where they came from.
All the different characters plays such an important role in this book. It is told from multiple points of view, which at first I found difficult to follow. Once I got to know the various characters, I found that this story couldn't be told from one point of view. It is very well written!
I highly recommend this book.
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on January 20, 2003
I have always come to the Maggody stories for light entertainment rather than edification. The jokes were often corny and the characterization crude but the mixture worked. In this one there are a number of highbrow references and Brother Verber reveals a childhood trauma that may account for his character flaws. Even the relatioship between Raz and Marjory is getting more psychologically complex. Where is all this leading? I'll keep reading to find out.
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on September 9, 2002
Every time I take a fictional visit to the rural Arkansas town of Maggody (population 775 who all seem to be Buchanons of some sort or other with yet another one on the way), I always look at the publisher's line on the bottom of the title page ... Simon & Schuster with its list of offices in New York, London, Toronto, Sydney and Singapore. It completely mystifies me trying to imagine what readers in Singapore think about the criminal justice system in Maggody.
Anyway, this trip into the world of high crime and comedy starts with Ruby Bee Hanks burning up the kitchen of Ruby Bee's Bar and Grill. Add Duluth Buchanon's wife running off with his children and Raz Buchanon searching for a live-in companion for his pig Marjorie. And last, but not least, Arly getting shanghaied into being a chaperone to a church group of ten out of control teens (Billy Dick, Big Mac, Darla Jean et al), who are supposed to spend a week rebuilding Camp Pearly Gates under the unfortunate guidance of Mrs. Jim Bob Buchanon (the mayor's wife) and Brother Verber (the town's preacher).
Once at Camp Pearly gates, everyone one starts seeing what they think are angels, ghosts and/or aliens, and Darla Jean trips over a dead body in the woods on a dark and stormy afternoon.
If you thought the folks in Maggody were whacko, wait until you meet the people who live around Camp Pearly Gates. As always, Joan Hess delivers up a funny and enjoyable read. (Even if I can't keep track of all the Buchanons!)
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on February 10, 2002
I recently decided to stop reading Joan Hess's Claire Malloy books after the last in the series, "A Conventianal Corpse," was so...well, bad. I think I've come to the same decision regarding the Maggody books. I'm about one-third of the way through this, the latest in the series, and I'm putting it down. There are so many great books out there to discover (not just mysteries, but fiction, biographies etc.) that I can't justify spending time on a story of so little substance. To be fair, Hess's books have never been much more than trifles, fun ways to waste some time. But really, enough is enough. What was once fun has now become tiresome, each book nothing more than a retread of the one before. And the mysteries themselves (the actual whodunit aspect of these whodunits) have never been their raison d'etre. So I'm just not going to bother anymore. Sorry, Joan, but P.D. James, Tim Cockey, John Irving and David McCullough are going to have my attention from now on. The two stars are for past pleasures only.
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on December 14, 2001
Maggody, Arkansas (population 755) Police Chief, Arly Hanks, thought she'd dealt with some really tough cases in the past, but isn't sure she's prepared to handle this latest assignment. It seems, she's been "volunteered" to help chaperone the church youth group during their week of spring break. They're off to Camp Pearly Gates, in nearby Dunkicker, to rebuild the bleachers and fishing dock. If that isn't bad enough, the formidable and always officious wife of the mayor, Mrs Jim Bob, and the ever-creepy preacher, Brother Verber, will be going along too. But before the kids can even get settled in, a youth grouper stumbles over the body of a dead woman, a member of the "Moonbeam" cult whose followers dress in white choir robes, shave their heads, wear magenta lipstick, and are often mistaken for space aliens. As murder and mayhem ensues, Arly is pressed into service by the County Sheriff's Department to investigate the murder, and find out what's really going on in Dunkicker..... Joan Hess is back with another rip roarin', good time romp through Maggody. This is a light mystery that has it all...a well paced plot, full of vivid and hilarious scenes, smart, crisp writing, and witty and irreverent dialogue, complete with down-home, southern colloquialisms that will have you laughing out loud and shaking your head. But it's Ms Hess' wacky and quirky cast of original characters that really makes this novel stand out, and once you've been introduced to Maggody's finest, you'll be hooked for sure. So put up your feet and get comfortable, because once you begin reading, you won't be able to put this book down until you've finish the last satisfying page. Maggody And The Moonbeams is the latest in a terrific series that just gets better and better with each book. If you're new to Arly Hanks and company, start at the beginning with Malice in Maggody, and read them all. If you're already a fan, this installment doesn't disappoint.
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on July 25, 2001
Maggody, Arkansas Chief of Police Arly Hanks feels that her current task is probably the worst assignment of her career. She, accompanied by the mayor's self-important wife Mrs. Jim Bob, despicable Preacher Brother Verber, and shop teacher Larry Joe Lambertino are chaperoning teens at the Camp Pearly Gates. The teens are a tough enough crowd, but her companions make for a long weekend.
All that becomes moot when one of the kids finds a corpse of a woman. The victim turns out to be a member of the Moonbeam sect, a bunch of space cadets who refuse to cooperate with Arly on the investigation. To make matters even more pressing, a local person is missing and though probably safe could be a second victim. Then there is the usual demands of her position involving pigs, family members, and a suspect who seems to spend more time out of jail than in a cell.
The latest tale in the long running Maggody series, MAGGODY AND THE MOONBEAMS, retains its freshness, something not usually seen by book fourteen. The story line is light, but quite amusing as readers watch beleaguered but competent Arly deal with a crowd of misfits. In some ways this tale satirizes its own series and other regional who-done-its, but does so in a kind reverent manner as Joan Hess provide her audience with a fun to read tale in which the laughs keep on coming.

Harriet Klausner
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on January 27, 2004
Sometimes it is hard to keep a long running series feeling fresh and fun, but Joan Hess manages to bring a bit of revitalization to her Maggody series by sending Police Chief Arley Hanks off with some hormone laden teens, the good Brother and Mrs. Jim Bob to Camp Pearly Gates.
While Arley tries to ride herd on the cosmetic mad girls' bodies, Mrs. Jim Bob works on their souls and the good Brother works on a bottle of sacramental wine.
Meanwhile back in Maggody, Mr. Jim Bob is enjoying his new found freedom with some friends he has made over the internet.
Then one of the girls at Camp Pearly Gates stumbles over a body of a local cult member and things begin to get complicated, as Arley says.
A fun romp in the woods with the Maggody crew. Actually I have to note that the description of Camp Pearly Gates raised certain childhood memories of church camp-- laced with the scent of mildewed towels and sweaty sneakers.
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on July 28, 2001
I have read all of Joan Hess' books and I have never been disappointed in any of them, but I have to admit my heart will always belong to Maggody. Having grown up in a small town that is a dead ringer for Maggody, I always feel like I am coming home. People who were raised in the big city might think people like this don't exist, but they do - in spades! Ruby Bee and Estelle? My Aunt Sister and her friend, Cubelle - you know, the sort of people who can tell someone's entire life history by the cars in their driveway! This installment pits Arly Hanks against a suspected cult called the Moonbeams. On top of all that, she has Brother Verber, Sister Barbara and various other Buchanons to deal with as well. The story never lags and is hilarious as well. My only complaint with any of Hess' books is that they are too short. I can't seem to put them down until I finish them. Don't miss any of them!
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on August 22, 2001
Did Joan Hess die and it didn't make the news? This book is just not up to her usual hilarious standards. It's as if some one else was writing this book. The Maggody series is one of my favorites, with zany characters and wit on every page. Her writing has always been so cleverly done, but this one leaves so much to be desired. There is not very much that's funny at the beginning of the book, but once Arly leaves Maggody it's downhill from there. Once the characters reach the church camp, this book resembles a not very well written average murder mystery. The segues back to Maggody from time to time are disjointed and not well developed. I really don't know why Ms. Hess even bothers with these little side trips to Maggody. From now on Joan, keep your stories in Maggody with all the old familiar, absured, crazy folks that inhabit this little town. We love you Joan! Come back!
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on November 12, 2001
Chief of Police Arly Hanks is manipulated into serving what amounts to a community service sentence, chaperoning teenagers on what could be the worst assignment of her career. She accompanies the randy teens in a ramshackle bus to a remote church camp, to do repairs and clean up. Included in the party are "Mrs. Mayor" (the mayor's wife Mrs. Jim Bob), the preacher Brother Verber, and teacher Larry Joe Lambertino.
The action really starts when one of the teenages literally stumbles over a corpse, one of the Moonbeam cult, who refuse to cooperate in the investigation. In addition, Arly is being pressured to marry a local law enforcement person, and there are segues back to Maggody to keep us apprised of what Jim Bob is up to in Mrs. Jim Bob's absence.
A laugh a minute, if a bit predictable.
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