The Nutting Girl, by Fred DeVecca: An Idyllic Town and a Missing Beauty

nutting_girl_5x8The Nutting Girl ($16.95, 320 pp, 5×8 Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-60381-575-8), a work of mystery/suspense by Fred DeVecca, is this author’s first published novel. After a wild young movie star is swept away by the river during filming, the PI hired to protect her vows to find out why.

“Intriguing [….] Readers will enjoy the wild ride.” —Publishers Weekly

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5 Stars: “I could go on and on about the characters in this book. All of them reach out to you. You want only good things to happen to them. [….] The Nutting Girl is Fred DeVecca’s debut book. You’d never know it. He writes a deep mystery, taking you on a somewhat spiritual journey, with eclectic characters and visual descriptions of a small town setting. I’ll be watching for his next book.” Read more….

—Laura Thomas, FU Only Knew Blog

“If you’d asked me whether it was possible to come up with a new take on the private eye novel at this late date, I might have said probably not. But I would have been wrong because that’s exactly what Fred DeVecca has done with The Nutting Girl. With its offbeat protagonist, vividly rendered settings, and lyrical prose, The Nutting Girl is one of the best debut private eye novels to come along in a long time, and I’m eager to read whatever Fred DeVecca comes up with next.” —James Reasoner, author of Texas Wind

The Nutting Girl is an absorbing and offbeat mystery with a deep emotional core. Frank Raven is a soulful, full-bodied character in search of a sense of place and a sense of purpose. A delightful book.”Emily Arsenault, author of What Strange Creatures and The Broken Teaglass

“In his first novel, The Nutting Girl, Fred DeVecca has taken his keen interests—intrigue, village life, birdsong, pretty girls, Morris dancing, philosophy and film—and woven them into a fun-tastic tale that piques ours. Contrasting the regular heartbeat of the soporific village with the darker, unpredictable machinations of its visitors, DeVecca clearly has some fun moving the puzzle pieces around—to our delight and the ultimate ‘ah-ha!’ moment.” —Virginia Ray, editor/publisher, Shelburne Falls & West County Independent

Middle-aged Frank Raven used to be a lot of things—a blind monk, a cop, a private detective, and a hard drinker. Now he doesn’t do much except run a funky old movie theater in bucolic Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, dance and sing with the local troupe of Morris Dancers, and record bird songs on his phone.

A lanky young wunderkind director, Nick Mooney, brings his Hollywood film crew to town and hires the “retired” Raven to protect his star: the wild, unpredictable, gorgeous, and prodigiously talented twenty-one-year-old Juliana Velvet Norcross, aka VelCro.

Reluctant at first, Raven takes on the job and slowly sees that there is more to VelCro than the troubled rebel she appears to be. She probes the former monk for his thoughts on God, love, and the soul. But Raven has renounced many of his former beliefs, and VelCro’s questions cause him to re-examine his life.

On the eve of filming, storms ravage the small village, and the river that runs through the center of town floods its banks. VelCro becomes ill and withdraws into the care of Sarah, the eighteen-year-old daughter of Frank’s girlfriend, Clara. The storm passes, VelCro recovers, and filming begins. But during the first shot, she is swept away into the river, leaving no trace.

What role did VelCro’s director play in her life? Did she fall? Did she jump? Was she pushed? Frank and Sarah are driven to find out what happened.

Says the author, “I’ve been a fan of mystery novels for most of my life, especially dark, noir-ish mysteries. They’re usually set in some urban jungle like New York or LA. Some pretty good ones have had rural settings, but it’s usually a backwater, poor, hardscrabble countryside. I have encountered few which are set in a bright, cheery place like Shelburne Falls. So I decided to write one.”

Fred DeVecca has a BA in English Literature from Wilkes University and attended film school at Maine Media Workshops & College in Rockport, Maine. Fred has been a screenwriter, photographer, and freelance writer, mostly in the sports and arts & entertainment fields, for twenty-five years. He has been a member of the Marlboro Morris Men since the mid-1980s, and since 1999, he has managed Pothole Pictures, a non-profit, community-run movie theater. For more information, click here.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

I glanced at the girls on the fence.

“And what few nuts that poor girl had …” we sang. I momentarily turned away from Julie and Sarah but I saw the two heads there as I made the turn.

“She threw them all away,” we finished. And we concluded with a loud, “Hey!”

I was now facing the two girls again, holding Michael’s hand on my left, young Sam’s on my right. We all smiled, then began our patented, circular walk-off.

As I began walking off, I saw there was only one redhead on the fence.

I stopped walking and blinked, as if that would change things. Then there are no redheads on the fence.

I started running—toward the fence, toward the redheads who were no longer there.

They were gone, both of them. In an instant. Poof. Just like that.

It seemed like no one else on the fence, or nearby, or anywhere, noticed their absence except me. Everyone else was still watching the filming play out. Some were even clapping.

Then Frick, or Frack—the black one—climbed up on the fence and dove into the water. This was heroic but not smart.

I was now at the fence myself, staring down into the river. Nothing was visible down there but swirling white waters from hell.

Then the hordes started to notice that something had happened. Slowly, a few at a time. There were raised voices, screams.

And then, instantly, they all knew. The police momentarily lost control of the crowd that had gathered for the filming and the crowd rushed to the riverbank, hundreds of them. No one called “cut.” For all I knew, Dexter was still shooting all of this.

Sirens started to wail and red flashers flickered more brightly than the sun. I held on to the top rung of the fence and looked down at the roiling stew down there—and looked and looked. I wanted to jump in. But it would not help.

Then I saw Frick—for I was later to ascertain that it was he and not the other one—bravely paddling but barely keeping his head above water, pretty much helpless, being pulled along toward the falls on a wave.

At this point in the river, it flowed directly toward a dam owned by the electric company, a dam leading to the falls over which the river drops to create the Glacial Potholes. There was one redhead bouncing, ghostly white and vacant-looking, in the waters approaching the dam.

To hell with it. I jumped in, bells and ribbons and hankies and all.

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