Velma Saunders, the meanest woman in Tobias, North Carolina turns up dead in the Town Hall bomb shelter. The only clue to her murderer is a copy of a Nigerian Email scam message. It’s up to British transplant Ian Dodge to find out who hated her enough to kill her. And what made her so mean.
I was contacted by the author to review this story. I gladly accepted: not only did I appreciate the opportunity, but I get the chance to highlight an independent author and a genre that is a personal favorite. I was given a copy of this book for honest review, and was not compensated for my words or opinion. I have provided links to purchase the book and find the author for your convenience, and do not benefit monetarily from your actions.
Take a butcher’s at the Sportsman’s bet.
It makes little sense doesn’t it? It’s Cockney Rhyming slang – said to have developed in the mid-1800’s in the East End of London, and it’s not certainly known if it was a game, an accident or intentional dialect meant to confuse, distract or deceive outsiders. What I wasn’t aware of was the continual growth of the slang; its references have modernized along with society. One of the best examples of rhyming slang in action is in the Austin Powers movie Goldmember – you can youtube the relevant clip.
The slang provides a nice side-note to the presence of the main character, private investigator and narrator and storyteller Ian Dodge. Ian is a former police officer turned private investigator, twice divorced, with 3 children, a dog and a house he rents while he lives in a trailer in the yard. Ian presents with a wry sense of humor, slightly fastidious in his personal habits and an unerring habit of ‘putting on the accent’ when being charmingly polite to the women he encounters.
As an unwitting and not exactly willing participant in the discovery of a murder victim in the town’s decrepit bomb shelter, Ian is hired by the defense lawyer to find “anyone that could have done the crime” aside from the current suspect.
I admit – I am a fan of mysteries, and have read my share of them. In most of the mysteries I do read, I have not found more than a handful where I was unable to figure out “who did it”. I was killer at Clue as a kid. This mystery had me stumped. There were far too many possible options, and the majority of the ‘evidence’ that pointed to one person or another was over forty years old. Add to that a relatively small and insular area, where many people are related through blood or marriage, or even both – and you have a real ‘feel’ for the area in which the story takes place.
The writing is incredibly tight and smooth, each chapter is relatively short and nearly all are dedicated to one little piece of the mystery to be solved. All of the characters that are introduced are done with just enough detail to be fitting to their importance to the entire plot. Recurrent characters (as I do believe this is going to be a series of mysteries) are given enough detail to want to know more; from quirks to relevance in the town or area – they all have some endearing quality that fits in both the story and the area. And once I discovered the “who” in the “whodunit” all of the hints to the murderer came clear. That, to me, is the true mastery of a mystery author – enough dissembling and partial reveals of evidence mixed with other superfluous bits to sift through. Done with a flair for smooth and cohesive writing, careful plot construction and a keen sense of humor in the main character make this a book easy to recommend.
Like mysteries? What about stories based in the south? Have a “thing” for a brit? Just want a new read with an author you aren’t familiar with? This is the book.
About the Author – and where to find her:
About the Author:
Judy Nichols grew up in a Batavia, Ohio a small town 20 miles east of Cincinnati and eventually found herself living in Aurora, Indiana, a small town 20 miles west of Cincinnati. She would be there still if GE Aircraft hadn’t made her husband Nigel an offer he couldn’t refuse– a chance to live near the ocean with GE footing the bill for moving expenses.
So now the family lives in Wilmington, North Carolina.
She started her novel Caviar Dreams while her daughter was napping one day. Five years later it was finished. The biggest challenge arrived once her daughter stopped taking naps and eventually lost interest in watching the “Toy Story” video.
Judy holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Kent State University. She has been a newspaper reporter, a teacher, a temporary office worker, a customer service representative, and currently stay-at-home mom with way too much time on her hands. (And never mind that her daughter is a year away from going off to college.)
In April of 2012, Judy achieved her lifelong goal of appearing on the quiz show “Jeopardy!” She was a two day champion winning a total of $46,500 and the distinction of being officially named the smartest person in a room full of smart people.
She has earned only two awards in her lifetime. Neither of them has anything to do with writing, but she is immensely proud of them nonetheless. Adia Temporary Agency presented her with the “Temp of the Month” award for March, 1987 and The Ohio Chapter of The Nature Conservancy gave her a Volunteer Appreciation Award in 1991.
Her experience with The Nature Conservancy inspired her second novel Tree Huggers, about the deadly clash between an unscrupulous developer and militant environmentalists, published in 2008
Sportsman’s Bet is her third book and the first in the Ian Dodge detective series. Ian is a British national, living in a small town in rural North Carolina and stubbornly hanging on to every shred of his Britishness. Any resemblance to Ian Dodge and her own prickly British husband is purely intentional.