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by Phyllis Smallman
McArthur & Co, January 2010
320 pages
$24.95 CAD
ISBN: 1552788369

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Sherri Travis worked as a bartender before opening her restaurant on an island in South Florida. A little rough around the edges but like a hard candy with a soft centre, she works hard at remaining independent and keeping her business afloat. Her difficult childhood catches up to her when Ray John Leenders reappears in her life. Once her mother's lover, he had attempted to rape her when she was only thirteen years old. Seeing the same pattern recur with a friend and her daughter, Sherri is unable to stay out of it and tries to protect the girl. So when Ray John is found murdered, she is one of the main suspects, as is her loose living father, now back in Jacaranda.

It took a little while for me to get into the book but once in, I just went along with the dynamic rhythm of the writing. Smallman takes us to various levels of the Floridian society. From a chic hotel fashion show, to a gated community, to an alligator-infested swamp, the story doesn't let up. Her descriptions and mostly her lively and often funny dialogues make for a very pleasant reading experience.

The plot does lacks something in the way of credibility, however. I couldn't quite accept that nearly all the single mothers fell desperately in love with Ray John who came off as a nasty brute nor could I believe all of Sherri's rationalizations for not going to the police with her information. There was also too much talk about guns and taking justice in your own hands - even for thirteen- year-old hands - for me. Nevertheless, despite these reservations, I found the crime and culprit quite believable and satisfactory.

What I most enjoyed was Sherri's progression from someone so scared of love that she kept everyone at bay - her father, her rich boyfriend (conveniently away for the duration), her friends and employees - to a woman finally mellowing and lowering her defences only to find that she wasn't as closed off as she thought. That 'new' Sherri is much more appealing and someone I would love to meet again.

Nicole Leclerc is a native Montrealer, avid reader, long time reviewer and moderator on the 4 Mystery Addicts group.

Reviewed by Nicole Leclerc, June 2010

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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