Androgynous, feisty ‘Jersey girl’ Tess Camillo relocates to Ashland, Oregon to live with her BFF, Lana, whose husband has died. The women have endured hardships; Tess lives with breast cancer. They look forward to a peaceful life of coffeehouses, world-class theater, wineries, and lovely landscapes in which to heal.
In autumn of 2016, the Presidential election is not the only cockroach in the Crackerjacks box of liberal Ashland. When a college student is murdered in his local dorm room, the town reels from the impact of evil. Tess is drawn into the fray. Bizarre billboards appear around town, labeled in an ancient script. When police try to decipher the billboard script, they learn it’s from a never-translated codex called the Voynich Manuscript.
Tess allies with a 30-something wannabe detective, Jefferson Graham, as she pokes and prods at the murder. It’s a season of dichotomies: splendid autumn colors and the Halloween parade buoy spirits; the tension of unsolved murders sets folks on edge. Ashland hosts “community healing services” and Tess runs into dead ends.
Finally one of Tess’s brainstorms leads to Echo Sapien, an ex-NSA techie knowledgeable about the Voynich Manuscript. He morphs from suspect to ally, which may or may not be a good thing. With a chase scene involving Siskiyou logging trails, skunks, bullets, OSF theater props, and a Fabergé egg, Bad Moon Rising pulls you along a zany trajectory, slowing only for moon gazing and the cannabis harvest.