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Skating Around the Law: A Mystery by Joelle Charbonneau
Cover Artist: Doran Ben-Ami
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Minotaur Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780312629809
Date: 28 September 2010 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Mortgage broker Rebecca Robbins feels trapped in the small, comical town of Indian Falls, Illinois, where gossip and skating are the favorite pastimes. She is desperate to sell her dead mom's skating rink and return to Chicago. Unfortunately, Mack Murphy, the local handyman, is found dead with his head in a toilet. When his drowning is ruled a homicide, no one wants to buy the rink. Because the police are inept, Rebecca is forced to play detective. While questioning a vast assortment of zany, quirky citizens who hated Mack, Rebecca is terrorized by someone who is vandalizing her property and sending her threatening messages.

Joelle Charbonneau's Skating Around the Law is a light-hearted cozy mystery that provides its readers with a nostalgic slice of small town Americana. Reading it, I felt that I had stepped through a doorway in time and entered my own hometown of Maryville, Tennessee, during the late seventies and early eighties when roller rink skating was still groovy. Then came the construction of Foothills Mall, which became the new teen hangout and the rink died. Skating Around the Law provided much comic relief from the gritty, hardboiled crime noir that I normally read. Along with Rebecca, I found myself getting teary eyed as I thought about my own loved ones who have passed away over the years.

On a bright note, Rebecca finds romance. In fact, she becomes involved in a love triangle. Skating Around the Law is very romantic. The heroine, Rebecca, narrates the story from her point of view and doesn't hesitate to tell us the lustful thoughts she feels for the local stud, veterinarian Lionel Franklin. She has a soft heart for animals, which include Precious, a psychotic cat, Elwood, an adorable camel. Then there's Pop, her lecherous grandfather who is an aging Romeo determined to bed every elderly woman in town. Providing much of the novel's comic relief, Pop assists Rebecca in her investigation.

Indian Falls is a delightful setting for Skating Around the Law. It is the town that time forgot - the type of town found only on the front of Hallmark cards. With stores that have cutesy names such as Shear Highlights, Slaughter's Market, Hunger Paynes Diner and Something's Brewing, one can't help but wonder if Department 56 or Lenox will create this town in porcelain. Skating Around the Law made me homesick for my hometown - a hometown that only exists in the past. For a few hours, I was able to relive my experiences at a skating rink that was torn down many years ago. A skating rink where I learned to skate backwards and where I learned, after my tennis shoes disappeared, to always rent a locker. That mystery remains unsolved to this day.

Obviously Joelle Charbonneau is a talented writer who can skate rings around my writing skills. Fans of light-hearted, humorous romances and cozy mysteries will find her Skating Around the Law a delightful, relaxing read. Fans of hardboiled crime noir will probably not choose this novel for their reading pleasure. As for myself, I probably would've enjoyed it more if another corpse or two had been tossed in for faster pacing. (I love a high body count.) I've read other cozies where there was more than one murder. Furthermore, the killer's identity in Skating Around the Law was slightly predictable, especially since most of the suspects were kind, elderly women who'd been forced to keep secrets.

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