Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Mystery Review: 'Mama Does Time' by Deborah Sharp

This is a book that sets out right from the start to amuse and entertain, with no pretensions beyond that, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. I've never been to Florida, so I've no idea whether the small town lifestyle portrayed here is accurate, exaggerated or a parody, but it made me laugh and it gets extra brownie points for that. The author has a sharp and acidic way of describing characters so that they appear fully formed and in garish shades of dayglo orange or baby pink in the reader's mind. There's absolutely nothing subtle about it, and it's a style you either love or hate.

The plot - well, the plot is neither here nor there, but essentially, a body has turned up in the car of the eponymous Mama, and her three daughters attempt to clear her name. That's about it, really. The story is told from the point of view of the middle daughter, Mace. There's some romantic interest between Mace and the cute detective assigned to the case, and also between Mace and the cute ex-boyfriend. There are numerous possible murderers, all with plausible motives, and the whole thing builds nicely to the inevitable dramatic climax.

This will never win any literary prizes, but it's nicely done, the Florida setting is evoked well enough that you can feel the sweat trickling down your back, and the mystery is guessable without being overwhelmingly obvious, which is all one can expect. It wouldn't be everyone's cup of tea, and I found a few irritations - the author is inclined to explain even irrelevant details, such as why the heroine's watch is still working after she fell in the swamp (it was waterproof - well, duh!), and the characters are more like caricatures. But there's a Southern charm to it all, and I enjoyed it. Three stars.

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