Much like the rest of the US recently, Mother Nature gave me some unexpected time off in the form of a winter storm. I suddenly found myself at home with some unplanned reading time on my hands. I had recently taken a chance on buying a book from Amazon by an author with whom I was completely unfamiliar. Call me crazy, but books for $2.99 that sound even remotely interesting are hard for me to resist, and this one sounded like a book I might actually like.
So, to kick off my snow day, I grabbed a cup of coffee, a warm fleece blanket, curled up on the couch, and aimed my e-reader toward Small Town Trouble by Jean Erhardt. I was hooked right off the bat and very glad I had taken a chance on the unknown.
The book is a light-hearted mystery set in the small town of Fogerty, Ohio. The main character, Kim Claypoole, leaves her restaurant in Gatlinburg, TN for a visit to her hometown to check in on her mother, Evelyn. The hilarious Evelyn, also known as “the Other Scarlett O’Hara”, lives in a scaled down version of the Tara Plantation house with her ancient Pekingese, Bunky, and has never met a Manhattan she couldn’t drink. She has just been offered an unusually large sum of money for a local, run-down, country music radio station that she also owns. Evelyn desperately needs the money, but is torn about selling her dearly departed second husband’s radio station. Kim knows the property is not worth the offered price and enlists the help of an old high school friend, who is now an attorney, to make sure everything is legal and valid. The more she finds out, the more suspicious she becomes of the intentions of the mystery man who has made such an outrageous offer.
Taking a breather from her role as the other woman in an affair with a married, and very closeted, Martha Stewart wannabe, Kim finds herself suddenly back in the company of Amy, her best friend from junior high school and French-kissing-practice partner. She discovers that Amy’s family has also been offered a much-too-large sum of money for a dilapidated farm house by the same mystery man that made the offer to Evelyn. As murders start cropping up outside the local strip club, Kim thinks it’s no coincidence that they began happening at the same time as the mysterious real estate offers. Kim and Amy launch into their very own “Nancy Drew and best friend George” investigation and soon find themselves in all sorts of trouble.
The book is a fast read and the characters are lovably quirky. Ms. Erhardt’s writing actually reminds me a good bit of Carl Hiaasen<img src="https://ir-na.amazon-adsystem.com/e/ir?t=csporev-20&l=ur2&o=1" width="1" height="1" border="0" alt="" style="border:none !important; margin:0px !important;" / in that her characters are almost-over-the-top, but still just normal enough to be believable. There were several times that I laughed out loud and the mystery thread was enough to keep my attention, but not too convoluted to follow. I did notice a few minor typos, but nothing that bothered me too much – especially for the price. In fact, I enjoyed the book so much, I wouldn’t have minded paying more.
I was happy to see in the author’s bio that this was the first in a series and that Ms. Erhardt is currently working on the fourth installment. The other three books are not yet available at Amazon, but a visit to the author’s website (www.jeanerhardt.com) tells me that the second book, Deep Trouble, will be coming out in Spring 2014. I definitely look forward to reading more!