The Branson Beauty is a paddle wheel boat that takes a certain route around the lake under the captainship of Albert Eberhardt. He’s been on the route for almost 20 years and knows this lake in the Ozarks just outside of Branson, Missouri like the proverbial back of his hand. Inexplicably, with approximately 120 passengers on board and many of them elderly, he has managed to run the classic showboat aground on the rock outcropping in the lake.
Getting the folks on the boat safely off on this cold windy day is going to strain local resources to the limit. This is going to be the first real test for new Sheriff Hank Worth. He has to coordinate a rescue operation and control a number of volatile factors including the representative of the company who is far more concerned about bad publicity than the safety of the passengers and crew.
Things become immeasurably more complicated with the discovery of a body onboard. In a variation of a classic locked room mystery, eighteen year old Mandy Bryson is found dead inside the captain’s private dining room. There is no question from the start that it was murder. Not only is Captain Albert Eberhardt unable to answer questions about how and why the boat ran a ground, no one seems to know why Mandy was on board or who killed her. Sheriff Hank Worth is an outsider and folks are not about to start telling secrets.
The Branson Beauty is the first in what hopefully will be a long running series by Claire Booth. A complex multi-faceted mystery, a host of secondary characters with their own stories to tell, and a richness of setting and details make this a very good read. It reminded this reviewer quite a bit of the Sheriff Dan Rhodes series by Bill Crider as well as the Sheriff Samuel Craddock series by Terry Shames. The same down home folksy feel with family, small town secrets and gossip, and strong mysteries.
If it isn’t clear already, The Branson Beauty by Claire Booth is very much recommended.
The Branson Beauty
Minotaur Books (St. Martins Publishing Group)
Hardback (eBook format available)
Material supplied by the good folks of the Plano Public Library System.
Kevin R. Tipple ©2016