California’s Central Valley is most noted for extreme heat, its famous literary giant, Saroyan, and the feeling of a peaceful agricultural community that has morphed into a large city. Yet its long hot summers bring out the worst in people at times.

In Valley Fever: Where Murder Is Contagious: A Collection of Short Stories Set in the San Joaquin Valley, the authors explore the unique flavors that set the Valley apart from other parts of California, but also its dark underbelly.

The opening story, A Tale of Two Sittings, is set in the now defunct, yet iconic eatery, in Fresno’s Tower District: The Daily Planet. Just the mention conjures up all kinds of nostalgia for me, and I can almost literally see the scene unfolding. I’m hooked, as I read the story and see how a very clever murder unfolds. The opening line says a lot:

“It was the best of crimes, it was the worst of crimes.”

Each series of stories is captioned under Fine Dining, Valley Heat, Stormy Weather, Deadly Destinations, Culture & Consequences, and Holidays Can Be Murder.

Some stories were funny, all were quirky, and there was a tongue-in-cheek aspect that I relished.

An enjoyable read for anyone who has ever lived in or visited the Valley; for those who just enjoy good murder mysteries; and for others who are simply curious about this part of the world, you will not be disappointed. Five stars.