This charming mystery novel says those who are always around you make the truest kind of family.
Debra Goldstein’s Should Have Played Poker is an intriguing mystery novel that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Until her mother shows up, Carrie’s life in small-town Wahoo, Alabama, has consisted of nonstop work at Carleton Industries and daily visits to Sunset Village to see her father, a former minister suffering from early-onset dementia. Her mother disappeared twenty-six years before, and when she reemerges, only to be murdered, Carry most confront her past and deal with new present-day issues.
Now she’s thrown in not only with ex-boyfriend Brian, who happens to be the lead detective on the case, but also with an eligible widower and his young daughter. The plot unfolds quickly; the entire story occurs over a two-week period.
A sense of humor permeates. After admitting to Brian that’s she’s usually either at work or with her father, Carrie chastises herself: “Great, I’ve just told him I am a workaholic with no social life.” Another character opines: “Girls like me were a dime a dozen, but without dimes.”
Information on the numerous characters is slipped in naturally and authentically, either through Carrie’s meticulous observations or during the true-to-life banter and other dialogue between characters. Especially delightful is the quartet of elderly widowed mah-jongg players who insist on helping Carrie solve the mysterious goings-on.
The unique character backstories are filled in nicely with a natural rhythm—it’s a soft touch when Brian refers to Carrie by a pet nickname, Red. There’s also a good balance between description and dialogue, which helps move this nuanced story along at a good clip. Multiple twists and turns occur along the way, and it’s really not until the last fifteen pages that readers will have finally figured out “whodunit.”
This is a charming mystery novel that makes a strong case for viewing those who are always around you as the truest kind of family.
Robin Farrell Edmunds
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