Murder Mountain by author Owen Curvelo and Illustrator Katya Strasburger
Thank you to Owen Curvelo for providing me with a copy of his novel in exchange for this honest review.
If you’ve seen an 80s movie about a misfit team of locals trying to take on an evil corporation you’ve essentially seen Murder Mountain. This indie book just adds a little bit of a murder mystery into the mix.
A ski resort employee is found murdered on a back trail at the beginning of the season. It seems that he wasn’t well liked but I never felt like anyone disliked him enough to warrant murder. The small town detective and many locals get involved in trying to solve the crime.
Meanwhile, the owner of the resort has more nefarious plans. He’s made a bet with his rich dad that he can turn a profit on the resort this season and if he can’t he loses his position. So he takes the opportunity of this dead employee to call the resort Murder Mountain and exploit this violent crime. It works.
It’s a pretty basic plot with a couple little side stories and some flashbacks to fill it out. The biggest problem with Murder Mountain is that it is a mystery without clues or motives. Every clue is a red herring and it would be impossible to solve the mystery yourself.
We have to wait until the big reveal at the end, which in traditional 80s movie fashion, happens with the Sheriff announcing the murderer to the whole town gathered in the town square, making it easy for the killer to attempt a dramatic escape. I get what the author was going for here but, seriously, just arrest the guy.
After the arrest the town explodes into a dance party and the credits run complete with still frames of all the actors. Or, that’s how it played in my mind. Murder Mountain is an exercise in cheesy camp but it’s very hard to pull that off in a book. I like camp but it’s much harder to accomplish than people realize. In this book it mostly comes off as lame and cliched.
What’s even more disappointing is that Murder Mountain is illustrated, which should have given it an advantage in accomplishing the goal of camp. Unfortunately, the images don’t add anything to the story, tone, or theme. They’re just kind of there to break up the pages.
My last complaint is that this small mountain town doesn’t ring very true to me. I’m not sure if that’s a side effect of the intended camp but I grew up in a small mountain town and this ain’t it. Although, maybe that’s just the difference between Colorado and the East Coast.
If you can forgive Murder Mountain some of its missteps it is a fun novel to read. It’s quick and entertaining enough to keep you busy for a weekend. Perhaps big fans of cheesy 80s movies will really appreciate the casual silliness of this murder mystery.
3/5 ski boots 🎿🎿🎿
If you like indie mysteries check out the Off World Hotel & Resort trilogy
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Buy it here: Murder Mountain
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