Book 3, in the Sherri Travis Mystery
This installment is a captivating tale with a serious moral undertone meant to please lovers of soft mysteries and aficionados of female sleuth protagonists. Ms. Smallman's novels are a great escape from hard core detective stories and thrillers, easy and enjoyable to read.
The compelling plot punctuated with suspenseful moments has restaurateur Sherri Travis returning to her hometown of Jacaranda, Florida. As new owner of the beach front Sunset Bar and Grill she quickly learns the pre-season slump is not all smooth sailing, her hope is to survive till the tourists return and business is in full swing.
As business begins to pick up, her mother's boyfriend, Ray Leenders, suddenly comes back into the picture. He had taken advantage of her when she was twelve and the memories have haunted her ever since. She kept the secret hidden never telling anyone especially her father, Tully Jenkins, an ex- Vietnam vet with a bad temper and a short fuse. Now years later, Ray reappears dating Rena Cagel, who runs the store below the bar and Sherri suspects he is likely up to his old tricks and abusing her sixteen year old daughter, Lacey. Questioned, Lacey confirms her suspicions and confides that she is also reluctant to tell her mother, she accepts Sherri's offer to stay at her condo to escape the unwanted advances. Sherri confronts Ray and threatens to blow the whistle on him. Things quickly spiral out of control and Tully offers his help and before we know it someone ends up in hospital and Sherri finds herself the prime suspect in a murder case.
The storyline has a lot of momentum to it especially with Sherri finding herself involved in one crisis after another. Sherri's struggle to untangle everything and stay one step ahead proved to be a touching experience. The threads in this crowded and intriguing plot juggle many themes from domestic abuse, blackmail, greed and even alligator poaching into an expertly written story with a neat conclusion. Several characters are fascinating and well-developed but some are depicted more like loveable caricatures. The storyline is fast paced, has snappy dialogue and is accented with a touch of humour.
I like this series for its lightness and its down to earth protagonist.