I do love a clever, humorous, well-written mystery with no gore. And, the only dead body in Mama Does Time (2008) is the one found in the spacious trunk of Mama's turquoise Bonneville convertible.
Author Deborah Sharp has populated her fictional Florida town, Himmarshee, with enough characters to keep this mystery moving along and to keep the reader guessing until the end as to the murderer's identity.
First, there is Mama who ends up spending a night or two in jail as a suspect in the murder of Jim Albert, loan shark and all-around sleaze. Mama has a fondness for sherbet-colored, matching outfits, sweet tea, and banana pudding.
Then there is Mace Bauer, her middle daughter and nature park ranger, who between fighting off marauding raccoons and feeding the park's one-eyed alligator, takes things into her own hands to prove Mama innocent. Her sisters, Maddie, the uptight middle school principal, and Marty, the librarian who is as pretty as Mama, are along to help sort out clues.
The list of suspects is long and includes Mace's ex-boyfriend (he owed the victim a trunk full of money); Mama's current boyfriend, Sal (does he have connections with the New York mob?); and even the victim's fiancé, Emma Jean Valentine (of the short skirts and big hair who found out Jim was cheating on her).
Some of the action in the story takes place at the Dairy Queen (that's where the body was discovered) which as we all know is the nerve center of a small town. Especially in the heat of a Florida summer.
There is a promising romance between Mace and the buttoned-up Carlos Martinez, the detective in charge of the case. He is new to Himmarshee and has some secrets of his own.
The story skims along and captures some of the idiosyncrasies of small town living. Just the book to settle down with at bedtime. It kept me reading - and laughing - far into the night.