Just plain funny.
Deep Trouble, by Jean Erhardt, doesn’t really fall into the cozy mystery category. But there is a mystery. This book is not a romance, but there is a romantic through line going on. What we have is a murder investigation wrapped up in engaging, honestly-portrayed characters. Our protagonist, Kim Claypoole, is out to solve a crime in the backwoods of Tennessee. The characters speak with rich, local dialogue, and the writing style is clean, consistent, and rhythmic in delivery. While the secondary characters could use strong goals that are in direct conflict with Kim’s, the characters have quite distinct personalities and provide the central character with many humorous opportunities.
There are several types of comedy such as satire, black comedy, slapstick and spoof. One of my favorites is Comedy of Character. Not physical comedy such as the antics in I Love Lucy, but because the character just is funny. The dimensions of Kim Claypoole, how she thinks, reacts to, and speaks with all the quirky locals, show us just how funny she is, whether she knows it or not.
With several subplots going on, one does lose sight of the urgency to solve the original murder. But this writer has talent and style. We go with the main character through various actions, and it is those actions that reveal Kim’s inner complexity. I’m hoping there will be another book in this series because I am hooked enough on these people to care. I want to find out how Kim will react if her best friend Ted tests her morals or loyalty. What if she had to choose between Nancy and her mother? I highly recommend this series. Not for the back-seat murder or subsequent investigation, but for truly rich characters, each very different and highly entertaining. Tag along with Kim Claypoole, you’ll wish she were real.
There are so many ways to develop character in a story. A few are interactions with other characters, dialogue, reaction to environment, actions within the story, character’s revelations about other characters, and more. Jean Erhardt has used all the above and created such a rich protagonist, you are sure you have met her somewhere before.
A well-developed setting can also reveal character. How she fits or does not fit in that time and place. In Small Town Trouble, we learn of the character’s history by how the character fits in that setting. That world is her world, including language, colloquialisms, and comfort level with others in that place. The author immediately pulls us in and even if this world is unfamiliar, we are there, with Kim Claypoole. Just as I settle in next to her financially challenged, Manhattan drinking mother, someone is murdered, a mysterious buyer wants the family’s radio station, and Kim is caught in the middle. Jean Erhardt, in setting up this world so honestly and fully, creates plausibility of Kim’s methods and skills to get involved and follow the clues. Even better, we see a deeper side to Kim, her complexities, imperfections, motivations and character strength. Although some plot elements are not as strong as character and setting, you will want this multifaceted southern Ohio woman to be your best friend.