(A Happy Camper Mystery) By Mary Angela
Cozy Mystery, 1st in Series
Publisher: Lyrical Press (November 24, 2020)
Paperback: 207 pages
Deep in the heart of touristy small-town Spirit Canyon, South Dakota, former journalist Zo Jones runs the Happy Camper gift shop, where she sells everything from locally made souvenirs to memorabilia. She even rents out mountain bikes, and dabbles in the adventure industry—and sleuthing . . .
It’s Memorial Day weekend in Spirit Canyon, and for Zo that means the return of summer shoppers. It also means the return of her good friend Beth, who’s moved back to the area to reopen her family’s premier hotel, Spirit Canyon Lodge. Beth and Zo spent many childhood summers there and Zo can’t wait to reconnect and celebrate the Grand Opening. But the festivities go from bad to worse when a power outage knocks out the lights—and morning reveals a competitor’s dead body found on the premises.
Soon enough, Beth is the prime suspect in the suspicious death. Fortunately, Zo isn’t afraid to put her investigative skills to work and prove her friend’s innocence. To start digging for information, she appeals to Max Harrington, a local Forest Ranger and unlikely ally. Though they’ve argued about Happy Camper’s tours, in this case they agree on one thing: Beth isn’t a murderer. Stranger things have happened than their collaboration. After all, this is Spirit Canyon. But as the list of suspects grows, Zo will have to keep her guard up if she doesn’t want to be the next lodge guest to check out
By Staff Reviewer, Julie S.
Open for Murder had me at the first paragraph. Who doesn’t have a cat that doesn’t want to come home, and when they visit you at your command they take charge of your abode and claim it as their own by playing and destroying everything in their path, making us feel as if they own us. It was no different for Zo Jones. George the cat introduced me to Zo Jones and into the community of Spirit Canyon and my journey with this mystery began.
This is the first book I’ve read by this author but it won’t be the last. The story sneakily pulls you in without a reader realizing it. As you are reading the descriptions of the land through the author’s eyes, her attention to details not only of the canyon but of the businesses and establishments, give you a perspective of the beauty and the uniqueness of both. Spirit Canyon could become home and the wonder of the area and happenings entice you to stay.
Open For Murder’s plot moves along quickly and skillfully and lays out the clues that challenge the best sleuths to figure out who masterminded this murder. Was it handsome Max, the forest ranger, Beth, Jo’s best friend from childhood and owner of Spirit Canyon Lodge, or one of the many tourists that frequent the area? Jo is always looking for fodder for her column, the Curious Camper, that runs once a week in the local paper, The Canyon View. Would a murder at her friend, Beth’s lodge qualify as fodder?
One of the highlights of this book was the strong friendships that linked these characters. The loyalty of Zo, who wouldn’t consider the possibility that her best friend could be guilty of a crime, reminded me that this is the type of friendship we all crave. Add the other characters, Cunningham reminded me for some reason of Tim Allen’s neighbor, Wilson, in Home Improvement, because of his easy manner and quiet presence next door. A little romance, a little snarkiness, a unique blend of personalities–and we can’t forget some of what South Dakota is famous for…gold–makes this a five-star book.
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About Mary Angela:
Mary Angela is the author of the Professor Prather and Happy Camper cozy mystery series. When Mary isn’t penning heartwarming whodunits, she’s teaching, reading, traveling, or spending time with her family. She lives in South Dakota with her husband, daughters, and spoiled pets. You can find out more about her loves, including her writing, at MaryAngelaBooks.com.