It’s fair time

I’ll admit it — I’m obsessed with Minnesota. So when I see an article about summer reading featuring books in far away places and exotic destinations it makes me cringe. I’d rather escape into a book set in a location I can actually visit — maybe even this coming weekend!

My shelves are full of books written by Minnesotans with intriguing plots set right here in our own beautifully diverse geography. Did you know there are a ton of mystery writers living here? Just visit Once Upon A Crime (604 W. 26th St.), one of the country’s premier bookstores specializing in mysteries, and browse through their shelves devoted to local writers and you’ll be hooked.

As we head into the summer fair season I’ve investigated mystery novels set at fairs. The first five are local treasures sure to make you get up off that chaise lounge to join the action. If those aren’t enough for you I’ve listed a few other set elsewhere to help make it through the summer. Happy reading — then visit a fair or two! 

SEPTEMBER FAIR (Jess Lourey) Newly crowned Milkfed Mary, Queen of the Dairy, is murdered while having her butter sculpture carved at the Minnesota State Fair. The fifth book in a great series set mostly in Battle Lake, Minn. THE MORTAL NUTS (Pete Hautman) A zany escapade at the Minnesota State Fair with characters including a taco entrepreneur and donut king. HOT DISH (Connie Brockway) A former Princess Kay of the Milky Way meets up years later to solve a mystery with the artist who carved her butter sculpture. A hilarious romp through Minnesota traditions and rituals — one of my favorite gift books. PICKLE IN THE MIDDLE (Jessie Chandler) This just-released mystery is a crazy caper set at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival. The third in a series by a former police officer and current fair vendor. MURDER AT THE WAR (Mary Monica Pulver, aka Monica Ferris) A mystery set at a Renaissance fair-like gathering of the Society of Creative Anachronism. This stand-alone novel was written by veteran mystery writer known for her 16 best-selling books in the Crewel World knitting shop series set in Excelsior.

STATE FAIR (Earlene Fowler) A folk art museum curator in northern California helps solve the mystery of a missing quilt in this Agatha-Award-winning series. WICKED WEAVES (Joyce and Jim Lavene) The first in a series of five set at a renaissance fair — includes recipes! FOUL PLAY AT THE FAIR (Shelley Freydont. A murder by an apple press ruins plans for a New York City event planner trying to forge a new life in a small town. A KILLER MAIZE (Paige Shelton) Farmers market vendors in South Carolina take up residence at a local fair with a sinister corn maze.

Metro-area county fairs

• Hennepin County Fair (Corcoran), June 13–16

• Ramsey County Fair (Maplewood), July 10–14

• Sherburne County Fair (Elk River), July 18–21

• Scott County Fair (Jordan), July 24–28

• Anoka County Fair (Anoka), July 23–28

• Washington County Fair (Lake Elmo), July 31–August 4

• Dakota County Fair (Farmington), August 5–11

• Carver County Fair (Waconia), August 7–11

Other nearby fairs and reenactments

• Wasioja Civil War Days (Wasioja), June 15–16

• Minnesota Renaissance Festival (Shakopee), weekends and Labor Day, August 16–September 29

• Severs Corn Maze (Shakopee), September 13–October 27

• Wapiti Buckskinners Historical Rendezvous (Nowthen), September 20–22 

For more diversions, follow the Weekend Tourist on Twitter (@WeekendTourist)