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Margarita Nights: A Sherri Travis Mystery by Phyllis Smallman
Review by Mel Jacob
McArthur & Company Publishing, Ltd. Trade Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781552786994
Date: 25 February 2010 List Price $19.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

In Margarita Nights Phyllis Smallman's debut novel, bartender Sherri Travis is accused of murdering her husband Jimmy when his boat blows up and the police discover the exhaust fan had been tampered with shortly after Sherri visited it. She is also the beneficiary of his large insurance policy.

Jimmy comes from a wealthy family and his mother hates Sherri whom she blames for Jimmy's failures. Handsome and charming, his skills involve seduction, scams, and golf. Despite the police, Sherri believes Jimmy wanted to disappear. He had acquired a number of enemies, but convincing the police of that remains a problem.

Her friends and the bar regulars where she works try to help. She also seeks a schizophrenic friend, Andy Crown, fearing he was the one killed in the explosion. His parents have cut all ties with him and no one knows his whereabouts. He no longer takes his medication and reportedly has left his normal hangouts. After Andy leaves a message for her, she assumes he doesn't know about Jimmy and she worries it might push him over the edge. She and Jimmy were the only friends who cared enough about Andy to stand by him.

Meanwhile, she struggles with her unresolved feelings for Jimmy. She also learns more about her mother who had gone from one loser to another, leaving Sherri determined to follow a different path. The police visit her and take her to the station, convinced she is guilty despite a robbery and several attempts on her life.

Gradually she learns Jimmy had big plans afloat requiring a large sum of money. Then she belatedly discovers an odd video tape Jimmy left for her, but doesn't understand why or what it reveals. After the tape is taken and her apartment ransacked, she seeks Andy to learn about the tape.

The novel received several awards. It has mild profanity throughout. Some might question why it takes Sherri so longer to realize what it all means and to convince the police. They might also question her judgment at times, but Smallman keeps the action flowing. She has written two others: Sex in a Side-car (November 2009) and A Brewski for the Old Man scheduled for May of 2010.

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