Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Set in central Minnesota, a psychological thriller draws my personal interest May 5, 2017


I BLAME IT ALL on Nancy Drew. She is the reason I read mysteries more than any genre. The series was especially popular when I was growing up.

So it’s no surprise that, after reading a review of a debut mystery written by Minnesotan Frank F. Weber, I simply had to get my hands on Murder Book. His publicist obliged.


Frank F. Weber grew up in Pierz, Minnesota.

Frank F. Weber grew up in Pierz, Minnesota.


But there’s more to this I need to read this book than its mystery classification. The author grew up in Pierz. My husband likewise is from the area and knew the Weber family. Frank’s mom was Randy’s teacher, a brother a classmate.

The book is set primarily in and around Pierz. I was curious to see how the setting would weave into the plot. We writers are often advised to “write what you know.” The author’s familiarity with rural Morrison County and its people and his knowledge as a forensic psychologist are deeply imprinted throughout this fictional story.

Murder Book held my interest from beginning to end as I tried to determine what happened to 16-year-old Mandy Baker who vanished, followed by the disappearance of an 11-year-old girl some 10 years later.

The story narration switches between the main character, Jon Frederick, key suspect in Mandy’s disappearance and now a Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigator; Serena Bell, Jon’s long ago love interest; and the perpetrator, Panthera. This method of storytelling offers in-depth character insights that define this book as a psychological thriller. Jon, for example, exhibits obsessive traits in his fixation on numbers and more. Panthera’s narcissism shows in his thought process and horrific crimes.

This is much more than simply a whodunit story of crimes, resolution of those crimes and a look at minds of criminals, the accused and victims. The author, raised in a Catholic family of 10 children, incorporates the region’s strong Catholicism and faith base into his book. I would expect that in a story set in Pierz.

Throughout the story, Weber also includes powerful statements that are especially credible in the context of his extensive experience as a forensic psychologist. According to his back book cover blurb, he has completed assessments for homicide, sexual assault and physical assault cases. In particular, I took note of these statements written into this work of fiction:

The perfect victim is the one who never goes to the police.

You never know how strong you are until being strong is your only choice.

Narcissists…can’t stand being denied.

No family member comes out of a bad situation unscathed…

Our most powerful drive is a desire for affirmation—to be heard, understood, comforted, and soothed.

There’s one more nuance of setting that I appreciate about Weber’s book. He writes about rocks pocking the landscape of Morrison County. I have seen many a rock pile in this central Minnesota region and heard many a story about rock picking from my husband. And now I’ve heard another, this time associated with a fictional crime.

FYI: Murder Book, the title of Weber’s mystery, is defined as follows: the twenty-first century term for a cold case where a homicide is suspected.

His book, published by North Star Press of St. Cloud, releases May 9. For more information, click here.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Images and my review copy are courtesy of Krista Rolfzen Soukup at Blue Cottage Agency.


28 Responses to “Set in central Minnesota, a psychological thriller draws my personal interest”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    Oh I would love to read and review this book as well. I love a good mystery and yep–Nancy Drew was responsible for that love. Great review, Audrey.

  2. Vibha Ravi Says:

    I generally don’t read book reviews without good reason. You ‘drew’ me in with Nancy Drew – growing up, she was my favorite character. And yes, she did spoil things for me – I can always guess the ending of a suspense movie/book/television serial given the practice I had with her novels.

  3. Right up my alley and will have to check this out! I am a fan of John Sandford’s books too due to being based in MN. I love a good mystery – my go to choice for reading. Happy Weekend – Enjoy 🙂

  4. Almost Iowa Says:

    It is fun to read locally based novels, especially when the author writes with a strong sense of place. I can think of a few who do this really well: John Sanford (John Camp), William Kent Krueger…..

    I am looking forward to reading Murder Book. Austin MN has wonderful new bookstore (across from the SPAM museum) that specializes in local and Minnesota authors, perhaps I will find it there.

    • Murder Book releases on May 9, so just keep that in mind. I love that you are shopping at your local bookstore. We need to do an Austin road trip. It’s been a few years.

      The two Minnesota authors you named are among my favorite. And you’re right about their writing with a strong sense of place.

      • Almost Iowa Says:

        I will tell the bookstore that I am looking for it and perhaps they order a few copies.

        I recently read Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger and it took my breath away…beautiful writing.

      • That’s a great idea, Greg.

        I read Ordinary Grace quite awhile ago. I agree with your assessment. If I remember correctly, I reviewed it for Minnesota Moments magazine (now defunct) when I was reviewing Minnesota authored books for the publication.

  5. I must admit, I have not read mystery stories for several years but your compelling report piques my interest. I may have to check this one out, thank you.

  6. Interesting!! I think I’ll recommend his book to the library.

  7. Susan Ready Says:

    Nice review-I like your connections and how you developed his sense of place which Frank is deeply rooted in Pierz. Thanks for adding a link to my review. .

  8. Missy's Crafty Mess Says:

    Sounds like a good book. Not my genre of reading but your review definitely has me curious

  9. Frank Weber Says:


    This is a very kind and insightful review. I particularly appreciated your recognition of the forensic applications of the statements you selected from Murder Book. It was fun to write a thriller where so much, including the cover, is pertinent to the mystery. (I will have to explain that in a personal email as I don’t want to be a spoiler for people who haven’t read it.) When I was preparing to send it to North Star Press, I had a friend read it to check for grammatical errors. As she was getting to the end, she called me in the middle of the night and said, “You can’t do that.” I pointed out to her that the twist was quietly building in the background throughout the book and was necessary. I drew on events from previous chapters, and she finally had to agree that it made perfect sense, even though it was disturbing. Her strong emotional response reassured me that I had created a mystery people could connect with. I am looking forward to being invited to book clubs to speak to people who have read the book about the case this was based on, and the build up to the final resolution. Audrey, your analysis makes being an author gratifying!


    Frank Weber

    • Frank, it’s good to hear from you and reassuring for me to get your positive feedback on my review. For many years I reviewed Minnesota authored books for the now defunct central Minnesota based magazine, Minnesota Moments.

      Yes, I would love to hear more from you about the cover and other details. I will email you so you can respond to me personally.

      I look forward to your next book. There will be another mystery, right? I expect you have already developed quite a fan base. We Minnesotans love our mysteries and our Minnesota writers.

  10. […] Prairie Roots posted her review of Minnesota author Frank F. Weber’s book on her blog (read that here) I commented that I really would love to read that book because her review was so enticing.  Leave […]

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