TIP A CANOE by Peter Abresch
A JAMES P. DANDY ELDERHOSTEL MYSTERY
Write Way Publishing, 2001
James P. Dandy (Jim) and his girlfriend Dodee Swisher are heading for an Elderhostel together. This time, Jim promises not to involve himself in police business. Except police business comes to Jim and Dodee. Jim can ignore the drowning death of a local and the Sheriff's announcement that he's found a box of dynamite. Harder to ignore is a canoe neatly tucked away in the South Carolina swamp with a body under it. Still, why would anyone be killing people out here in the middle of no-where, and why would an Elderhostel be involved?
Against his will, but with plenty of prodding from Dodee, Jim tries to make sense of the mystery. There must be a motive, something that is worth killing for. All of a sudden, the Sheriff's style looks less like confidence and more like incompetence or even involvement. Could eco-terrorists be planning on blowing up the dam that supplies half of the power in South Carolina? When ex-FBI employee Harold (the hound) vanishes, Jim gets fully involved plunging both himself and Dodee into danger.
TIP A CANOE is a wonderfully light mystery. Many writers would be constrained by the Elderhostel setting but Peter Abresch manages to bring personality to the South Carolina swamps, the perky camp leader, and especially the collection of Senior Citizens that become Jim's companions and suspects. The memory game they play early in the novel (each gives their name and an animal that starts with the same name--i.e., Jim the Jack Rabbit) is both amusing and helps the reader keep the characters straight. Distinctive character tags, especially Barry (the Bear)'s fagedaboutit make the characters come to life.
The mystery plot is enhanced by the growing affection between Jim and Dodee. Each has lost a spouse and is concerned about committing again. Abresch probes Jim's feelings, giving added depth to an intriguing character. Will he stay alive long enough to finally figure out that Dodee is the woman for him?
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