Open for Murder (A Happy Camper Mystery)
1st in Series
Setting – South Dakota
Publisher: Lyrical Press (November 24, 2020)
Paperback: 207 pages
Digital ASIN: B085LTP1XH
Deep in the heart of touristy small-town Spirit Canyon, South Dakota, former journalist Zo Jones runs the Happy Camper gift shop, where she sells everything from locally made souvenirs to memorabilia. She even rents out mountain bikes, and dabbles in the adventure industry—and sleuthing . . .
It’s Memorial Day weekend in Spirit Canyon, and for Zo that means the return of summer shoppers. It also means the return of her good friend Beth, who’s moved back to the area to reopen her family’s premier hotel, Spirit Canyon Lodge. Beth and Zo spent many childhood summers there and Zo can’t wait to reconnect and celebrate the Grand Opening. But the festivities go from bad to worse when a power outage knocks out the lights—and morning reveals a competitor’s dead body found on the premises . . .
Soon enough, Beth is the prime suspect in the suspicious death. Fortunately, Zo isn’t afraid to put her investigative skills to work and prove her friend’s innocence. To start digging for information, she appeals to Max Harrington, a local Forest Ranger and unlikely ally. Though they’ve argued about Happy Camper’s tours, in this case they agree on one thing: Beth isn’t a murderer. Stranger things have happened than their collaboration. After all, this is Spirit Canyon. But as the list of suspects grows, Zo will have to keep her guard up if she doesn’t want to be the next lodge guest to check out . . .
Summer means tourists in Spirit Canyon, South Dakota. For Zo Jones and her friend Beth it means business. Zo is excited about Beth reopening the family’s hotel and can’t wait to attend the grand opening. But there is one person who wants Beth to fail and the person is found dead in her room at the hotel the morning after the grand opening event. The deceased is Beth’s competition so she is pegged as the prime suspect in the suspicious death. Zo is not a Happy Camper, she knows Beth is innocent and she is going to prove it unless the killer ends Zo’s summer early.
After a somewhat slow start Open for Murder takes off as we meet several characters including the victim. With her crotchety disposition, you just knew she was not going to be around long so her death wasn’t a surprise. What was a surprise was the number of suspects. I enjoyed the way Zo delved into the investigation and that she enlisted Forest Ranger Max Harrington to help her. I found the chief of police very offputting and lackadaisical about the entire situation. While some suspect’s motives were minor there were some that definitely should have been higher on the list than Beth. I loved that Beth kept going with her plans even with the murder being held over her head. The core characters of Beth, Zo, and Max were very likable but I want to know them better. The author has left plenty of room for them to grow and develop. I did find that Zo’s cat just tolerated her made me laugh. It is above and beyond the usual independence of a cat.
The mystery was very well-plotted. I had my own shortlist and was pleased that I followed the clues correctly and solved the mystery just before the characters. The reveal was great!
As with the author’s previous series, this series is set in South Dakota and she does a fantastic job bringing the area to life. It has been several years since I have traveled to the state and her descriptions invoked some nice memories and make me want to plan a return trip soon.
Open for Murder has set this series off to a grand start. As I said these characters have so much room to grow. I can’t wait to see where the author takes them in the future. I am excited about the continuation of this series.
Your Escape Into A Good Book Travel Agent
Mary Angela is the author of the Professor Prather and Happy Camper cozy mystery series. When Mary isn’t penning heartwarming whodunits, she’s teaching, reading, traveling, or spending time with her family. She lives in South Dakota with her husband, daughters, and spoiled pets. You can find out more about her loves, including her writing, at MaryAngelaBooks.com.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”