Mining for Murder
A Happy Camper Mystery #3
By Mary Angela
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie
Zo Jones is enjoying the sunny season at her Happy Camper gift shop in Spirit Canyon, South Dakota—when a murder reminds her all that glitters isn’t gold . . .
The South Dakota Gold Rush might be long over, but Zo Jones feels like she’s hit the mother lode when she and her friends browse an estate sale, where a rare old book about the history of Spirit Canyon is causing quite a commotion. In addition to local stories and secrets, the book may even contain the location of a famous stash of gold—a treasure worth killing for.
Zo’s friend Maynard Cline wins the bid on the book, to the chagrin of many interested parties, including the historical society and college history department. But when Zo and Hattie head to Maynard’s mansion to borrow the book for a library event, the only thing they find is Maynard—at the bottom of the mountain. The valuable book is gone. Zo knows this must be murder because there’s no way a germophobe like Maynard would have voluntarily dived into a pile of dirt. Now she’ll have to dig into a new case, and go prospecting for a perpetrator . . . (From Amazon)
This mystery by a new-to-me-author was a delightful read in many ways. I enjoyed meeting and discovering the quirks of the characters and learning more about South Dakota. The mysteries kept me on my toes; I couldn’t figure out who the bad guy was, or if there were several. Murder, theft, break-ins, and bodily injury contributed to the complexity, as did a personal quest that Zo has been chasing throughout the series. May I suggest that one read the books in order to give each one more meaning?
The estate sale and auction at the home of a late, renowned historian was well attended, including by Zo and her close friend/ librarian Hattie. It became of great interest to best friend Jules, who determined it was the home of her dreams. Many people were interested in a one-of-a-kind book about the early days of Spirit Canyon, including the gold rush and a map of where an original prospector stashed his gold. Jules won the home, and their friend, Maynard, won the book. Several people were angry about the book being auctioned off, including the history chairman at the local college who claimed she promised it to him, and the head of the historical society.
Hattie, the head librarian, was the only person Maynard would trust to borrow the book for an hour on the opening of Gold Rush Days, and Zo went with her to pick it up. Maynard didn’t answer his door, so they went out back. They saw one of his impeccably kept shoes lying damaged near the cliff’s edge. Looking down, they saw Maynard’s broken body on a lower ledge. Suspicious, they asked the Chief of Police to look for the book when they searched Maynard’s home for evidence in his death. Zo wants to see the book to see if the family of her birth mother is in it so she can learn of her heritage.
I could almost picture several characters and their mannerisms. Zo, Max, and Zo’s employee, Harley, are very likable and easy for me to be invested in. Zo’s lifelong, best friend Jules was not one of my favorites, perhaps because of her stress of cleaning the new home, packing, and unpacking. There are some really quirky people that added to the fun. I appreciated how at least two characters took opportunities to grow and change. Several age groups are included, attracting various ages of readers.
The setting was described wonderfully. I never imagined South Dakota having some lush beauty, primarily remembering Mt. Rushmore and the Badlands. I liked reading some of the history, including the gold rush. There were a couple situations I didn’t see backstory for that delayed my understanding.
There were many twists and turns that proved the mystery more complex than I anticipated. Several suspects came to light, and when Jules is found injured, Zo and her friend Max are willing to go to any length to find the bad guy. I was so surprised at who was involved with the assault, theft, break-in, and ultimately the murder! All loose ends were admirably tied up, including a mystery that was pursued through the series. I highly recommend it!