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Skating Over the Line: A Mystery by Joelle Charbonneau
Cover Artist: Doron Ben-Ami
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Minotaur Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780312606626
Date: 27 September 2011 List Price $25.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

Rebecca Robbins, small-town amateur sleuth, remains eager to sell the Toe Stop Skating Rink and return to Chicago. Unfortunately, she is experiencing numerous obstacles. Chief among them is her hunky veterinarian boyfriend, Lionel Franklin, who still hasn't asked her to marry him. Next is Pop, her oversexed grandfather, who has become a successful Elvis impersonator. Complicating matters is Rebecca's estranged father, the scheming, conniving Stan Robbins, who has returned to Indian Falls. Lastly, she is determined to find the one responsible for stealing cars and setting fire to them, especially when someone dies.

Joelle Charbonneau must've grown up watching The Andy Griffith Show and Hallmark films. With her nostalgic Skating Over the Line, she returns readers to a Mayberry-like town of yesteryear when roller skating ruled. The skating rink in my hometown of Maryville, Tennessee closed when Foothills Mall opened in the mid-eighties. Now, due to the economic downturn, the mall is struggling to remain open. Skating Over the Line brought back my fond adolescent memories of skating in circles while listening to many of the songs that are mentioned in Charbonneau's novel. In fact, if not for the usage of modern technology, such as cell phones, I would've sworn the story took place in the early eighties.

Skating Over the Line contains lighthearted, PG-13 humor that made me chuckle. Granted, I never guffawed like I have for some other cozies. However, at least it didn't contain the raunchy language that some authors mistake for humor. (A beautiful woman cursing irritates me.) Furthermore, Skating Over the Line reminds me of the Harlequin romance novels I once reviewed for the Chesapeake Romance Writers, except all sexual activity, so far, has been implied. At various times throughout the plot, Rebecca is the romantic interest of one or more beefcakes: a veterinarian, a fireman, and a lawyer. What normal, healthy woman wouldn't want to be in her shoes?

Furthermore, Rebecca has family, friends, and neighbors who truly care for her. I never understood why she'd want to move back to Chicago. It's true what they say about happiness; it can be staring us right in the face and we are too blind to see it. Rebecca may be fast on her roller skates, but I'd never accuse her of being a fast thinker. The girl can barely add two and two. I solved the crime of the stolen, exploding cars too early in the novel and I never considered myself the brightest crayon in the box. (Perhaps my deductive reasoning has improved after reading over a hundred of these novels.) I want my mysteries to be a little more baffling. Needless to say, I didn't receive any earth-shattering shocks or surprises.

The author committed a serious error. She prevented Skating Over the Line from becoming a standalone novel by revealing too many plot spoilers from the series' debut, Skating Around the Law. In fact, she clearly reveals the killer's identity. This is a shame because the series has a lot of potential. However, I don't know how many more cold showers Lionel Franklin can take before Rebecca Robbins commits to a more permanent relationship. Also, I don't know how much longer the For Sale sign will remain on the Toe Stop Skating Rink until it is eventually sold or Rebecca realizes that Indian Falls is where she belongs.

Joelle Charbonneau's whimsical Skating Over the Line is a lighthearted, easy-going respite from the pressures of modern living. It is pure cozy escapism. Don't expect a complex murder mystery. However, I would read Charbonneau's novels for their lovable, quirky characters; quaint, picturesque settings; good-natured, inoffensive humor; and romantic drama. The mysteries are just an extra bonus. My only suggestions are that Charbonneau consider: throwing in more corpses for better pacing, never revealing plot spoilers of previous novels, and placing the first murder as close to the novel's beginning as possible. For the longest time, I feared Skating Over the Line would merely involve the search for stolen cars.

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