If you’ve got an eccentric aunt or two in your family tree, you’ll enjoy the second installment of Darty’s cozy mystery series, WHEN BOBBIE SANG THE BLUES.
In the first book, WHEN THE SANDPIPER CALLS, Darty introduced mystery novelist Christy Castleman, a young single gal and amateur sleuth who solves some real-life mysteries in her fictional hometown of Summer Breeze, Florida. If you haven’t read SANDPIPER, stop reading here and begin with this novel. You’ll enjoy the storyline more if you read the series in order.
In this cozy, Christy’s aunt Bobbie Bodine shows up fresh from her third divorce and ready to take Summer Breeze by storm. She’s no frumpy relative; Darty portrays Bobbie as a fashionable knock-out blonde at 51, with enough energy for two or three women. Soon, she’s singing at the local blues club and making a splash around town. Bobbie’s sister (and Christy’s mom), a strait-laced pastor’s wife, isn’t as excited about Bobbie’s reappearance as Christy is. Soon, sparks begin to fly in Christy’s family as the two sisters clash.
Bobbie decides to open a shop with the clever name “I Saw It First,” which recycles trash into treasures. As Bobbie tells Christy, “I look beyond the flaws and see the promise.” This, of course, serves also for the theme of the book: God taking broken people, mending them, and making them whole again. It’s a nice premise.
Trouble comes in the form of Bobbie’s latest ex-husband Eddie Bodine, who rolls into town with a new girlfriend and a vendetta against Bobbie. He’s convinced she’s stolen something of his, and determined to get it back. But when he’s murdered and left in a storage unit rented by Bobbie, she becomes the suspect. Can Christy find the real killer? Or is it Bobbie? How much does she really know about her itinerant aunt?
It’s not all sleuthing; there’s a nice subplot about the romance between Christy and her on-again, off-again beau Dan Brockman. Both are trying to determine if they want to get serious again --- or if they should call it quits. And they aren’t the only romance heating up. One of the most enjoyable characters in the series is the older widower Jack Watson, Christy’s one-time future father-in-law. He is instantly attracted to Bobby, which adds some nice moments to the storyline.
It’s not all smooth sailing for the reader, however. If you like your author to point out the moral of the story, Darty will be just the right cup of tea; of Bobby, she writes at the end, “most of all, she had taught them to look beyond the flaws and find the promise.” But some readers, like myself, might find themselves wishing for more subtly. Darty sometimes overdescribes and repeats information, which can slow the pacing down, and the dialogue becomes stiff in spots. Occasionally, she tells instead of shows (“Bobbie had always been quick to point out her own mistakes.”) For faith fiction cozy mystery readers, however, these will just be little bumps in the road, not major obstacles to the storyline.
And speaking of cozy. Remember this is a “cozy mystery” --- says so right on the cover --- so don’t expect a lot of anguish, gore, hair-raising suspense or gut-wrenching plot elements. Yes, there is murder, but only of the off-scenes sort that doesn’t give you nightmares. Christy herself is squeaky-clean, and her relationship with Dan in the series never gets steamier than some enthusiastic kissing.
Christy is a likeable character, and the tropical world of Summer Breeze is a fun setting for an escapist read. If you’re a cozy mystery fan who likes lots of faith in the storyline and a good moral conclusion, you’ll enjoy WHEN BOBBIE SANG THE BLUES.
Reviewed by Cindy Crosby on November 13, 2011
When Bobbie Sang the Blues: A Cozy Mystery, Book 2