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BOOK REVIEW: You'll be glad to find this 'Body' in Bakersfield

A desiccated corpse unearthed in a Delano orchard propels a search that could well end badly for retired teacher and librarian Vermilion Blew (“Very” for short). A provocative clue suggests that the dead man was Very’s fiancé, who jilted her the day of their wedding many years before.

But, as they say, “the plot thickens.”

In “Body in the Orchard,” mystery writer Phyllis Wachob has pulled off a suspenseful tale actually set in Bakersfield and its environs. Readers will delight in the intrepid heroine’s circuitous quest to find her ex, using all the investigative techniques she can muster.

But Wachob’s skillful weaving of local landmarks into the plot is truly the best part for local readers. Very’s house in the charming La Cresta neighborhood off Panorama Drive sits “up on the hillside, above the fog." She writes, "The streets were laid out in meandering lanes, gradually rising to the top of Panorama. ... One could stand on the edge of the bluffs and look out over the oil fields.”

Downtown businesses such as the Nile Theater, Guarantee Shoe Center, the old Brock’s and Vests stores and even the Kern County Library are all figure into the saga as Very seeks out the expertise of a private investigator. Interestingly enough, Very and her PI pal eat lunch at both Bill Lee’s and Wool Growers. And at one point their dining companions are debating the merits of Wool Growers vs. Noriega Hotel, as we all have done over the years.

The narrative does have some scary moments, such as an explosive scene that takes place at the now defunct Trout’s on Chester where Very sets out to find someone who might have known her ex.

As if that were not enough, Very explores a homeless encampment near the Kern River and bike path where she must flee from a wild-eyed vagrant who may have known Frankie, her ex. Even our humble Bakersfield cactus plays a role in the drama.

In all, this novel will spark the interest of locals and add several hours of fun to all who like a good story. Bakersfieldians will especially appreciate this narrative romp with its local connections. Incidentally, Wachob has already sketched out a sequel to this "Kern Kapers" novel. So stay tuned.

Wachob currently teaches English at Bakersfield College but has traveled the world over while teaching English. She has set many of her novels in the countries that she knows well. Wachob was drawn to mystery novels as a child and has turned that into her passion. She is also a member of the Writers of Kern. Her mystery novels are all available through Russo’s Books, Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com.

Marjorie Bell is a retired high school English teacher who has been a Bakersfield resident for over 50 years. She has also taught journalism at Bakersfield High School and advised an award-winning literary magazine.

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