The Branson Beauty
Sheriff Hank Worth Mysteries #1
Minotaur Books, July 2016
From the publisher—
The Branson Beauty, an old showboat, has crashed in the waters of an Ozark mountain lake just outside the popular tourist destination of Branson, Missouri. More than one hundred people are trapped aboard. Hank Worth is still settling into his new role as county sheriff, and when he responds to the emergency call, he knows he’s in for a long winter’s day of helping elderly people into rafts and bringing them ashore. He anticipates a lot of anxiety, many arguments, and extra costs for emergency equipment that will stretch the county’s already thin budget to the breaking point. But those are the least of his worries after he discovers high school track star Mandy Bryson’s body locked inside the Captain’s private dining room.
Every now and then, I entertain myself by trying to figure out which subgenre of crime fiction I like best. Why I do this I have no idea since I NEVER come to a successful conclusion because there are so many subgenres and then those are further modified by all kinds of nuances. There are a few I don’t particularly care for but way too many I like to be able to pick one favorite. So, I give up the quest until the next time I decide to think about it.
What can I say? I’m easily amused 😉
Police procedurals are definitely in my positive column and The Branson Beauty pushes a whole lot of my hot buttons. I really REALLY like rural or semi-rural sheriffs and deputies, small or smallish towns, humor without sappiness, clues that the cop in question actually has a good family life and that he has avoided the stereotypical alcoholism or PTSD and is intelligent and perceptive, i.e., good at his job, but I want some edginess because, after all, murder is a serious business. In this case, there’s a bonus….a showboat! Just thinking about showboats takes me back to earlier times with a touch of romance and adventure, not to mention a terrific movie 😉
Hank is a smallish-town sheriff, actually a county sheriff, but he came from the Kansas City police department so hard crime, including murder, is not a huge surprise to him. The same can’t be said for his fellow citizens, some of whom kind of go off the deep end when, first, the boat crashes and they have to figure out how to get a lot of people off of it and, second, a very dead murdered body is found. Fortunately, Hank has at least one pretty capable deputy. A Company Man tries to throw his weight around….hence the caps….in a semi-friendly fashion, hoping to avoid a public relations nightmare and a widow with a police scanner, Lovinia Smithson, is the first to arrive when Hank sends out the call for help, ensconcing herself on a nearby rock to watch the festivities. The Company Man’s boss turns out to have a stick up his butt and the emergency district chief can’t resist whistling the theme from “Gilligan’s Island”.
And then a rather important piece of evidence disappears, in a manner of speaking.
Quite honestly, I love this book and everything about it and it will be going on my list of favorite books read in 2016. All the characters are finely developed and much more human than many fictional people and the investigation had me guessing , surprising me more than once. Most of all, I enjoyed the relationships between Hank and his family and between Hank and his colleagues. I’m sorry I now have to wait for a second book and I’m not even sure one is planned, but I can hope. Ms. Booth, please give us more!
Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2016.
“This contemporary take on a locked-room puzzle
is chilling, compelling and completely entertaining,
and Claire Booth is a wonderful new voice
in crime fiction.” – Hank Phillippi Ryan, Agatha,
Anthony and Macavity award winner
About the Author
Claire Booth spent more than a decade as a daily newspaper reporter, much of it covering crimes so convoluted and strange they seemed more like fiction than reality. Eventually, she had enough of the real world and decided to write novels instead. Her Sheriff Hank Worth mystery series takes place in Branson, Missouri, where small-town Ozark politics and big-city country music tourism clash in, yes, strange and convoluted ways. For more about Claire, her books, and some of the true crimes she’s covered, please visit www.clairebooth.com.
“With nuanced characters and an intricately unfolding
plot – and a bone-deep sense of cold in this snowy
Ozark setting – this novel is reminiscent of William Kent
Krueger or Giles Blunt. Claire Booth is a writer to watch.”
– Anthony and Agatha award winner Sara J. Henry
Follow the tour:
Monday, July 18th: A Chick Who Reads
Tuesday, July 19th: BookBub Blog – author guest post
Wednesday, July 20th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Monday, July 25th: Mockingbird Hill Cottage
Wednesday, July 27th: Write Read Life
Monday, August 1st: Bewitched Bookworms
Thursday, August 4th: Kahakai Kitchen
Thursday, August 11th: Buried Under Books
Thursday, August 18th: Joyfully Retired
Monday, August 22nd: All Roads Lead to the Kitchen
Tuesday, August 23rd: FictionZeal
To enter the drawing for a print
copy of The Branson Beauty
by Claire Booth, just leave a
comment below. The winning
name will be drawn on
Sunday night, August 14th.
This drawing is open to residents
of the US and Canada.
“Claire Booth hits the ground running in this debut
novel set in the Missouri Ozarks. She writes with the
assurance and clarity of a more seasoned pro.”
– Edgar award-winning author Margaret Maron