Who would buy “Feel the Bern: A Bernie Sanders Mystery,” which makes Sen. Bernie Sanders into a grumpy athletic sleuth traipsing around imaginary Eagle Creek, Vermont, with a Gen Z sidekick solving a mystery? Mischievous conservatives might want to pull a joke on their happily non-woke friends. For that group, yes, the basic premise creates a socialist Bernie, knitted mittens on the cover, so if this is a perverse prank, go ahead. (Although when I worked at Northshire Bookstore, many people giggled over a book titled “The Joys of Getting Older” — which opened to a riffle of blank pages. However, I never saw anyone actually buy this book.)
Bernie Bros (and Sisses?) might love an action hero Bernie Sanders, who nudges just beyond where the real life senator dares to go. This book has just enough hero worship cut with the Larry David version of the senator to make the book satisfying.
If you like your humor cute, this book is for you. A cat is named Selena Gomez. Little whirling drones are called Ben and Jerry. A murder weapon is maple syrup. It’s not a cozy mystery; it’s a cutesy mystery.
Maybe I’m being curmudgeonly about this book. Yes, it has a plot — involving a lake, a cast of country characters, an evil outsider and Big Maple. But it seems exploitative of the Senator and Vermont, even granting Senator Sanders gamely went along.
Instead of actually painting a character, author Andrew Shaffer, a Kentucky resident, can have his Bernie character say things like: “‘You mean did I buy [tickets] online?’ He shook his head. ‘I don’t use my debit card on the internet.’” In some ways, the book is a written version of Larry David impersonating Sanders — but David is a comic genius. Shaffer has a schtick (previously having written an “Obama Biden mystery.”) The Vermontisms ring hollow to me. Full disclosure, I’m a transplanted Vermonter. But in my experience, being a Vermonter is not a continuously self-conscious act. Yes, “Jeezum Crow” may have a T-shirt on the internet linked to Vermont, but is it worth a flourish such as this: “Jeezum Crow? I hadn’t been in the Green Mountain State an hour yet, and already I’d gone full Vermont”? Such passages are ornamentation designed to make people think they have an authentic Vermont artifact at their fingertips, a Vermont book to stand in an Airbnb next to an empty maple syrup jug.
And then there are 29 pages of recipes at the end. Why? True, characters do eat in the book. They eat in most books. But do we look to Moby Dick for chowder recipes? That’s why we have cookbooks.
The last recipe for “special” brownies with cannabis suggests one final group of potential buyers for of this book: those who are high at time of purchase.