A clean, comic mystery hits all its targets
Recommended without reservations: Roadkill (Double Barrel Mysteries Book 1) by Barbara Ellen Brink, 294 pp, ebook edition discounted to $0.99 (USD) for a limited time, in celebration of the release of Much Ado about Murder (Double Barrel Mysteries Book 2); list price, $4.99 (USD). Tradeback edition, list $14.99 (USD).
Review: Roadkill (A Double Barrel Mysteries Book 1) is a riot of a read.
It’s a sort of cozy mystery, featuring in one barrel a hotshot homicide detective who survived getting shot by a naked girl while taking down her drug-dealing boyfriend. The second barrel is the detective’s devoted wife, Shelby, a stage actress raised by an alcoholic Shakespearean. A hit-and-run murder in the detective’s hometown, and the shooting that disables him, provide a prologue to a story that brings the couple to the fictional Port Scuttlebutt on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula where they are debating whether to buy a derelict bed-and-breakfast.
It’s also sort of Christian fiction, featuring a couple of characters who are ordinary Christians and written without obscenities, profanities or voyeuristic sexual situations, though it’s never preachy nor moralistic . . . so non-Christian readers shouldn’t find anything objectionable.
Brink’s writing is pleasantly polished. The characters are well-developed and, barring the necessary villains, quite likeable. In fact, I look forward with pleasure to getting to know many of them better in Brink’s newly released sequel, Much Ado about Murder. The setting is delightful, too, with everything that makes a small town loved . . . and loathed. The mystery involves a teasing tangle of threads, and Brink is adept at twisting them, then unknotting them. You might, as I did, suspect early on that you’ve hit on the solution, but you shouldn’t be too sure of yourself.
One of the very best features is the dialogue, and, in particular the brilliant way Brink employs Shelby’s bardinage. I, too, grew up in a household rife with Shakespearean references, and my college credits include nine hours of Shakespeare (including all the comedies and all the tragedies, as well as a large portion of poetry). But – and this is what is so spectacular – readers don’t need to be versed in Elizabethan drama to enjoy these references because Blake generously explains them to those sensible characters who have no time for such foolishness. It’s never condescending. Blake apologizes for his wife’s eccentricity, and Shelby, though delighting in the quotations that linger in our language, is no literary snob herself. She simply wants to share the fun, not look down on the uninitiated.
“ . . . I’m the daughter of an alcoholic. I say that up front because it colors everything about me. For good or bad, my past experiences have much to do with who I’ve become. I love eggrolls, big band music and Shakespeare,” Shelby tells readers in Chapter One.
A reader who wants to be truly ticky could cavil over two scenes, the absence of a crowd of cops at the hospital after Blake is shot and the brevity with which volunteer firefighters knock down a blaze and depart. In my experience, the Thin Blue Line always thickens the moment an officer goes down, and even volunteer firefighters linger long enough to ensure a fire doesn’t reignite. I suggest overlooking both. Brink’s choices serve to keep the story free from clutter where realism serves no particular purpose.
Finally, the discount on the digital edition should be good from all online booksellers through Monday, 6 June 2016. Brink told me in an email that the price at Amazon will be the last to revert to the regular $4.99.
About the Author: Barbara Ellen Brink is a multi-published author of mystery, suspense, and young adult novels. Apart from writing she is a wife, mother, and dog walker. She grew up on a small farm in Washington State, but now lives in the mean “burbs” of Minnesota with her husband, their pup, and two adult children living nearby. In her spare time – when she’s not reading – she likes to ride motorcycles, visit local wineries, or catch up on the latest movies.
Blake and Shelby Gunner’s plans to renovate the old boathouse go awry when murder comes calling. Autumn in Port Scuttlebutt usually means a stormy Lake Superior, crisp temperatures, vibrant fall colors, and an invasion of deer hunters. This year, there’s also a shallow grave. Someone killed Pete Dugan’s ex-wife and planted her under his woodpile. The police consider him the obvious suspect, but the Gunners have other ideas. What does the death of a pet squirrel, the sighting of a mysterious car, a break-in at the bed & breakfast, and the reappearance of three ex-cons into the community have to do with the murder of a middle-aged legal assistant? No detective worth a grain of salt believes in coincidence. So when things start piling up that seem too quirky to be happenstance, Blake and Shelby have to decipher the clues and come up with the truth before a killer gets away with murder.