Title: Small Town Trouble
Author Name: Jean Erhardt
Publication Date & Length: April 1, 2013 – 192 pgs
In Small Town Trouble, the first in my mystery series, you get acquainted with Kim Claypoole’s irreverent ways of dealing with the peculiar characters and events that seem to follow her around. Claypoole’s misadventures begin as she leaves her home in the Smoky Mountains to help save her kooky mother Evelyn’s from financial disaster. Setting off to assist Evelyn, AKA “The Other Scarlett O’Hara,” with her newest personal crisis, Claypoole leaves her Gatlinburg doublewide and the Little Pigeon, the restaurant that she owns with her partner and sometimes best friend Mad Ted Weber as well as a steamy love affair with TV diva Nancy Merit.
Claypoole’s savior complex leads to more trouble when she bumps into an old flame in her hometown who asks for help clearing her hapless brother of a recent murder charge. In true Claypoole fashion, she gets more than she bargained for when she gets dragged into a complicated quest to find the true killer that involves topless dancers, small-town cops, a stream of backwater character and even a meeting with the Grim Reaper. We’re never sure if Claypoole can muddle her way through the murky depths of this bizarre murder mystery before it’s too late. With biting humor and wit, Small Town Trouble will leave you guessing what’s around the next corner in the quirky world of Kim Claypoole and looking forward to her next adventure.
I really liked the different characters and their interactions with Kim. They were just this side of over-the-top, which is exactly what I would expect and want in a mystery novel, especially one written with women in mind. Kim’s sense of humor and her random pop culture references were also spot on.
I didn’t have any real concerns with the novel. There weren’t any obvious bad stereotypes, and the cliches were ones I anticipated (and belong in this kind of story). It was a little hard to get into at first, and the real action didn’t start until partway through. I would have liked it to happen a bit sooner. Also, though I think it fit the character, I was a little distracted by her almost constant thoughts on other women’s bodies.
Overall, I mostly just found this to be a fairly typical genre book. Nothing stood out to make me either love or hate it. However, I still feel good about recommending it to mystery lovers.
I give it 3.5 stars.
I was raised in the small rural town of Amelia, Ohio, about twenty five miles out of Cincinnati. My younger brother and sister and I had a pony, a horse, many great dogs and a couple of motorcycles. We raised a lot of hell. My father served in The Big One at 17 and, after riding a motorcycle around Europe, became a lawyer and later a judge. My mother worked as a homemaker and nurse, a skill she had to use a lot with all of the injuries my siblings and I subjected ourselves and one another to.
I wrote my first mystery story when I was in fourth grade. It was about a kid a lot like me who heard strange noises coming from the attic and became convinced that the attic was haunted. Eventually, the mystery was solved when she investigated and found a squirrel eating nuts in a dark corner. It wasn’t a terribly exciting conclusion, but my teacher gave me an A anyway.
As a teenager I worked at a lot of different jobs. I worked at a gift shop in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, which is a frequent locale in my books. I was a swimming instructor and a lifeguard where my primary goal was to never get wet. I did a stint in a stuffed animal gift shop at the Kings Island amusement park where I actually sort of met the Partridge Family when they shot an episode there. After graduating from high school, I went on to attend Maryville College in Maryville, Tennessee, a stone’s throw from the Great Smoky Mountains. There was some more hell raising at college and I made some very good friends and occasionally we have our own private reunions.
In high school and college I played basketball and I graduated from Maryville College with a degree in Phys Ed. I went on to teach at Amelia Junior High, the same junior high that I had attended. There was something a little weird about passing by my old school locker every day when I walked down the hall as a teacher. Plus, some of the teachers I’d had back when I was in junior high were still working when I started to teach. Some of them had been none too fond of me as a student and I don’t think they were much fonder of me as a teacher! I coached the girls’ basketball and volleyball teams which was the best part of my job.
In my late 20’s I moved to the West Coast to get a broader perspective on life or something like that. I ended up working in retail security, or loss prevention, as it is now known, at an upscale Northwest retailer. I kept getting promoted and with each promotion, the job became less and less fun. It was a lot more fun catching shoplifters than sitting in endless meetings and crunching budgets. After ten years of that, I quit to try my hand at some serious writing. I wrote two books of fiction (not mysteries), Benny’s World and Kippo’s World, as well as a book of not-especially-reverent poetry called A Girl’s Guide to God and numerous short stories, articles and poems which have appeared in The Sonora Review, The Quarterly, Word of Mouth, Blue Stocking and 8-Track Mind.
After that, it was time to go back to work. I got my private investigator’s license and hung out my shingle. At first, I took a lot of the cheaters cases. It seemed to me that if a guy thought his woman was cheating, he was usually wrong. On the other hand, if a woman thought her guy was cheating, she was almost always right. Eventually, I moved on to take mostly criminal defense investigation work which often involved trying to figure out what the client did and didn’t do and then minimize the damage of what they usually did do. There were so many crazy ways that people could get themselves in trouble. In one case, the attorney I was working for represented a wife who had gotten so enraged about all of the time and affection her husband lavished on his pet iguana that she shot the poor iguana and killed it. The husband was furious and wanted the district attorney to press charges. The wife was eventually charged with reckless endangerment and took a pretty sweet deal because even the DA felt sorry for the fact that she was married to such a schmuck.
It was an interesting ten years. Somewhere in this time period I began to write the Kim Claypoole Mystery Series, which was a great distraction and a lot of fun. I liked the idea of having many of the same characters appear in each book. So here I am now, working on the fifth book in the series. Wish me luck.