Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Champagne for Buzzards

Spunky, smart-mouthed, Sherri Travis just blew into town in her Big Red shiny pickup truck with a trail of black, ugly buzzards in hot pursuit. So, who put the dead body in the back of Big Red? Sherri really doesn't want to know since she is focused on giving her boyfriend, Clay Adams, a surprise birthday party at his Riverwood Ranch. Guess what? Sherri winds up right in the middle of another kind of surprise - the unpleasant kind.

Champagne for Buzzards is the fourth book in the Sherri Travis series written by Phyllis Smallman. It's no wonder that Smallman was placed in the top six mystery authors, for summer reads 2010, by Good Morning America. Her 'trailer-trash' character is bigger than life even when she tries to clean up her act and put on a veneer of respectability.

In the company of her father, Tully, Uncle Ziggy and best friend Marley, Sherri takes up temporary residence at Clay's ranch. She encounters a diabolical horse, a seven foot snake and a mongrel dog but that isn't the worst of her troubles. Something strange is going on in the woods that surround the ranch house. Four-wheelers are roaring through the peaceful landscape, loaded rifles laying across their handle bars. Psychotic next door neighbor, Boomer Breslau, has taken a perverted fancy to her. Sherri's mouth and actions inflame his obsession until he vows to not only kill her - but everything on Riverwood. His cousin is the sheriff so when things turn nasty there is no place for Sherri to run.

High tension, wonderful descriptions of the Florida countryside, and a very real, heartbreaking theme of man's inhumanity toward man makes this book a must read.  

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

No Rest for the Wicked

Are you under the impression that working in a book store is boring? Then you have never visited Thornton's Books in Juniper, Oregon and met Jane Serrano. Forty-three, widowed, the mother of a beautiful daughter, Jane does more than shift dusty tomes from shelf to shelf - she solves murders.

Elizabeth C. Main has created an unorthodox cast of characters in her No Rest for the Wicked.  Jane's daughter, Bianca, the brightest star of the aging group, Alix, a cynical multi-married owner of an upscale wedding boutique, Bible quoting, cake baking, Minnie, young Tyler and his crusty grandfather, shy, retiring Velda and long-suffering love interest Nick; just to name a few. Oh, and lest I should forget, there's Wendell the Wedding Dog.  His services are a bit pricy but he looks great in a tux. He'll do almost anything you ask at your nuptials unless an uninvited porcupine crashes the party.

Main writes a true 'cozy' mystery drawing her story and characters from real life, skillfully putting them on the page for mystery readers to follow with delight. But don't let their playfulness fool you - there's a good mystery here. A charming, womanizing, con-man who targets the elderly is the current corpse. Jane Serrano, from the first book in this series, Murder of the Month, has been established as the amateur sleuth of choice and when the body is discovered she and her crew gear up to go after the murderer, especially since one of their own has been hauled off to jail as prime suspect. Their investigation leads Jane and Minnie straight into a locked cellar with an armed killer on the other side. Taunt and dramatic, funny and warm, Main is an author who entertains.