"Dead Man Falls"
(Reviewed by Judi Clark NOV 6, 2000)
"Since neither lawman answered, I figured they didn't have a good idea either. A random thought skittered by and I pulled it to a halt. "Hey, what did your profiler in Dallas come up with?"
It's only been two months since Jolene Jackson last visited her mother, Lucille. Certainly if it wasn't for the obligatory birthday bash at the local Dairy Queen, she wouldn't be anywhere near Kickapoo, at least not so soon after the July fiasco. But in September there are a some things certain to happen: "the aspens will turn to gold, fresh snow will start to fall, and Jolene Jackson will find herself back in Kickapoo, Texas. Like it or not."
The notorious weekend begins with Lucille dragging Jolene to a celebration to unveil the newly-erected water fall. This wall of fake boulders above the river is going to put the missing falls back into Redwater Falls (if they ever had any). And the big celebrations will not be hindered even though the water pumps aren't yet working. For the celebration, the fake falls are going to be showered with water from fire hoses. Anyone of us might be able to side with Jolene as to why she doesn't want to go, but Lucille won't hear no. She's told her best friends that Jolene is escorting her to this major event and so she is.
True to her personal legacy, Jolene Jackson finds trouble within 24 hours of her arrival. As she's admiring the falls, which she is surprised to admit is impressive, she notices a "package" shoot out from one of the fake boulders. She follows this object from the rail, until she realizes that it is a body. After discreetly getting the attention of some of the local police officers, and stealing a rope from a cowboy sleeping in the back of his truck, she tries to get them to lasso the body out of the water. Once out of the water, Sheriff Jerry Don Parker identifies the body as Calvin Holt, a nondescript classmate of theirs. In Calvin's hands are pictures from their year book with faces circled, including those of Jerry Don Parker and Jolene Jackson.
Though she'll deny she is anything like her mother, she's hard put to keep her nose out of the case. But then again, she did find the body and she and Jerry Don (for whom she still has the hots) are on the serial killer's hit list. It seems to give her a right to stay in the middle of things. Plus she feels she's especially good at offering up theories; for unlike the lawmen, she doesn't get all caught up in the facts. Rather than fight her, Jerry Don and Rick Rankin decide that she might as well help them while she's in their protective custody. These are her classmates. And Jerry does her enjoy her company as much as she his.
What I liked about the the first novel holds true for this second in the series. Not only is it a good, fast moving sleuth story, it is really funny. Jolene runs a constant dialogue with herself. Between the sentences she speaks aloud, she provides us with her true thoughts on the situation at hand. Which are hilarious. This running commentary adds color to this Texas town and gives life to the people around her. Boyd has a knack for taking the obvious point of concern and building an unexpected sentence around it. For example the way she uses the word "shot" in the following excerpt, from a scene in which Jolene and Jerry Don collide trying to grab Lucille's purse as she's about to open it:
"Mother glared at us like we were complete fools. Gun-shy knee-jerk types, yes, but not fools. We have both learned the hard way about the purse. I was grateful that all she shot us was another disgusted look as she collapsed her umbrella and stuffed it inside her handbag. There was no need to ask her if she had her gun any more than if she had her lipstick. Lucille carries her essentials at all times."
One of the reasons I like Jolene Jackson is that she's my age, not twenty-something or thirty-something like most female sleuths. She's constantly reminding us how her mother breaks all the preconceived notions for geriatric behavior. Like mother, like daughter - Jolene is portrayed more youthful than most mothers who have two children in college. There is one part of the book that came as a complete shock to me personally. It was when she bumped into her high school enemy, Rhonda, at the supermarket. A young boy, carrying a carton of ice cream, yells to "Gramma, Gramma, look, look!" to Rhonda. I had to put down the book and count on my fingers the years since high school. After I recovered from the shock I realized that I too could be a grandmother now, had I not taken my parent's diligent warnings about how "accidents" can ruin your whole life.
I'm finding as I'm writing up this review, I'm ready to quote every other word. Before I get into trouble for reprinting the novel right here and now, I recommend that you put in an order for your own copy. And if you haven't read Hot Enough to Kill, well, then you are the lucky one, because you have two fun Jolene Jackson reads in your future!
- Amazon readers rating: from 7 reviews
Read Chapter One from Dead Man Fall's at the author's website(back to top)
"Hot Enough to Kill"
(Reviewed by Judi Clark OCT 4, 1999)
It's a sweltering 112°F day and Jolene Jackson is back in her hometown of Kickapoo Texas, where anything bad can happen, and will. To begin with, she's just picked up her seventy-two year old mother, Lucille, at the Sheriff's station, where she was held for assaulting an officer with her handbag. Those on the receiving end would say it is a near lethal weapon. Not to mention that Lucille's boyfriend Big John, the mayor, was murdered the day before and she's not looking very remorseful. For the most part, Jolene believes her mother is innocent, but has this nagging feeling that she knows more than she's letting on. Unlike many an amateur detective, Jolene is not exactly a willing sleuth. Eventually, she does comes around to her mother's (nagging) insistence that she use her (wasted) journalism degree to find out more about what's happening. Especially after her high school boyfriend (whom she is still very sweet on), Deputy Sheriff Jerry Don Parker, is shot and nearly killed in her mother's own kitchen. So who was the target - Jerry or her mom?
If you thought Thelma and Louise (Lucille's favorite movie) were crazy, you've got to meet this mother-daughter team. They usually don't see eye to eye and when they do, start worrying. Through their humorous banter and Jolene's running commentary, we really get to know and like them. Never mind the picture she paints of small town Kickapoo Texas where it's a step back in time, life evolves around the Dairy Queen, high school stuff still matters, and leaving your hometown is unforgivable. I had so much fun reading this that I hated to have it end. Paula Boyd writes with pure Texas humor, weaving together a good whodunit and providing a backdrop that won't be forgotten. Hot Enough to Kill is a must read for your Sherlock funny bone.
- Amazon reader rating: from 24 reviews
Read Chapter One from Hot Enough to Kill at the author's website
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
- Hot Enough to Kill (October 1999)
- Dead Man Falls (November 2000)
- Turkey Ranch Road Race (2010)
- Killer Moves
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About the Author:
Paula Boyd grew up in a small town in Texas called Holliday near Wichita Falls. She assures all that fictional Kickapoo and Redwater Falls really are not mirrors of the real towns, nor is her mother Lucille.
She lived in the Rocky Mountains with her husband and three children, horses, dogs and assorted wildlife and was president of AMB Environmental, Inc., a consulting company focusing on air, hazardous waste and OSHA issues. She also co-founded and sold a specialty card company which produces equine birth announcements and foal albums.
From 1999 until recently, Paula has been dealing with "drama and trauma involving death, divorce, moves across three states and a great deal of introspection." She currently lives in Arkansas and is getting ready to publish her third novel.