Thursday, February 19, 2015

Malice in Maggody (Arly Hanks #1)

Author:  Joan Hess
Genre: Mystery

Four Stars

The last crime wave to hit Maggody, Arkansas, happened eight years back when a farmer's barn burned down and caught two teens in flaming delicto.  That's why Arly Hanks, back in the Ozarks after her marriage went sour in the Big Apple, figured taking the local sheriff's job would give her some needed R & R.  What she got was M & M - murder and malice.  First Raz Buchanon's favorite hunting dog was snatched, then an EPA official (who okayed dumping sewage in the town's favorite fishing hole) disappeared...and then a pretty barmaid turned up dead at the Flamingo Motel from real unnatural causes.  Now Arly's in danger of landing up the creek without a paddle - where the quiet of the Ozarks may be shattered by the sounds of death.

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Arly Hanks is the sheriff of small-town Maggody, Arkansas.  Her office consists of herself and her deputy, Paulie Buchanon.  Things around town are quiet enough until there is an uproar over the possible pollution of the town's swimming/fishing hole.  When an EPA employee arrives in town, things begin to happen...

Things as in the EPA representative disappears.  Completely.  Then there is an escaped convict, Carl Withers, too.  So the state troopers are called in to find them, and the head trooper, Sergeant Plover, has rubbed Arly the wrong way, and while there isn't fighting, there is certainly animosity between them (even if it is temporary.)  When the local barmaid, Jaylee, is found dead at the Flamingo Motel (also owned by Arly's mother, Ruby Bee), things begin to heat up.

Now I could go into all the things happening in this book and all the characters - and there are a lot.  There is Ruby Bee, aforesaid owner of the motel and also a local bar and grill, Estelle, Ruby Bee's best friend and the local hairdresser, the four members of the city council who hired Arly (one of which who constantly rubs her the wrong way), and several other denizens who hang around the story and add a little local color; but there are too many to mention, so I won't.

The story itself was good: a missing man, a dead waitress, an escaped convict - who happened to be married to the dead waitress.  They all tie in together, and it was a pleasant enough read, even for an older book.

What I didn't like is that Ruby Bee and Estelle - 55 and 53, respectively - were referred to as "old women."  Old women?  Really?  That was a little offensive to almost any woman I would think.  I also didn't like the fact that both Arly and Sergeant Plover, even while off duty, drink beer and then get behind the wheel of a car.  Not a good idea, even if you've had only one beer.  This always rankles me in a book, that the author decides to allow their characters to drink and drive.  The last thing that bothered me was her name:  Her given name is Ariel, but her nickname is Arly?  How?  The nickname for Ariel would probably be Arie, not Arly.  You'd think Arly would be the nickname for Arlene, or something along those lines.  It just seemed "off" somehow.

Aside from these three things, I think the book is decent for the beginning of a series, and I will read the next to see if I will continue to do so.  Recommended.


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