Review by Julie Carpenter
This is the second book in the Jane Brooks mystery series. (And the first of the series that I have read.) This is exactly the book you want to curl up with in the overstuffed chair with a cat and cup of coffee. A glass of sweet tea and a porch swing will do nicely in the summertime, although I would skip the cat in the heat – you’ll both be cranky. The book is a “cozy mystery” intended for an entertaining read, populated with likable characters in an interesting setting. It’s like taking a trip with pleasant friends except, of course, for the fact that there are some villains along the way.
The book is set in Knoxville, TN (a place I’ve called home) and the setting and characters are a refreshing change from most mysteries. Most readers will be able to easily identify with the lives and challenges of the characters from work to relationships. The protagonist, Jane, is a hairdresser and her friend Rodney shares salon space with her. His partner, John, is a policeman. Jane and Rodney are temporarily working from the back room of their friend Annie’s florist shop when the action begins.
The death and mayhem in the story are offset by the convivial patter of a southern hair salon. The city of Knoxville, caught between Southern tradition and the more progressive outlook of a university town, is also a presence in the mystery. The book touches on many aspects of life in the Appalachians with some interesting historical asides about the Melungeons, historically considered to be of mixed race descent and therefore not fully accepted into Southern society; and it also touches on some of the environmental issues birthed in the clash between tourism and preserving the stunning natural beauty and endangered ecosystem of the Great Smoky Mountains.
The mystery nicely ties in several plot points so that the murder, relationship issues and the history of the Melungeons, seemingly individual story threads weave themselves together as the story moves along.
Treat yourself with a trip to the Smokies with a feisty hairdresser and her friends. And don’t forget the coffee! Or the sweet tea.
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