Margarita Nights, the first of the Sherri Travis mystery series by Phyllis Smallman introduces the reader to a character, Sherri Travis, chiseled from real life. Although not the brightest crayon in the box Sherri holds true to her trailer camp background and heart of gold attitude instilled by her bartender mother, Ruth Ann. Sometimes you want to reach between the covers of this book and give Sherri a shake of the shoulders. Her persistence that her 'godawful' estranged husband, Jimmy, didn't blow up with his boat and the subsequent events caused mostly by Sherri's ability to talk to the wrong people at the wrong time make this book an exciting read. The police want to know who killed Jimmy, if he's dead, and Sherri is the prime suspect. When another close friend is murdered the plot becomes more tangled.
Sherri and Ruth Ann are characters you won't forget after the last page. There are very effective scenes played out between the two that make them larger than life. The mother-in-law, Jimmy's mother, who doesn't, even remotely, come from a trailer camp background is convinced that everything that happened to her son is Sherri's fault. Her grimace when she opens the door to her less than perfect daughter-in-law speaks volumes. But Sherri has always been 'Jimmy's girl' whether she admits it or not.
All the characters in this book, although numerous, are all well crafted and defined. You won't want to miss the 'reunion' at the Sunset Bar when the people of Sherri's life sort out their individual parts. Smallman describes it as 'The air was charged with energy as if an electrical storm was about to crack open the room'.
All of this, plus a great look at the Florida coastline and surrounding towns ensure a very enjoyable read. You can visit Sherri again in the sequels. Smallman's series was chosen by Good Morning America as one of the top six mystery series for 2010.