“Calamity Jayne” by Kathleen Bacus

Throw in two parts Nancy Drew, one part Lucille Ball, add a dash of Stephanie Plum, shake it all up and you’ve got a one-of-a-kind amateur sleuth with a penchant for junk food and hot-pink snakeskin cowgirl boots. Tressa Jayne Turner (who begrudgingly answers to “Calamity Jayne”) is lovingly known around her small Midwestern town for being a magnet to mischief and mayhem.

Calamity is fed up with dumb-blonde jokes and sets forth on a mission to give her nickname an overhaul by replacing “Calamity” with “Ace Reporter Extraordinaire.”

The fair-haired protagonist haphazardly finds herself in the middle of a high-profile mystery when she discovers the corpse of an accused drug smuggling lawyer in her trunk. When the corpse disappears, she (once again) becomes the laughing stock of the town. Fueled with frustration and anger, Calamity sets out to solve the crime and to finally earn some much deserved R-E-S-P-E-C-T. What better way to make a name for herself than by single-handedly solving a mystery and writing about it as an ace-cub reporter for The Gazette?

Bacus’s laugh-out-loud mystery/romance/comedy novel, complete with heart-pounding romantic encounters and small-town charm, is a cozy read filled with eccentric characters and quick-witted dialogue. My only qualm about this cozy read is the lackluster mystery plot. Readers can easily finger the culprit when they reach the halfway point. However, the veritable smorgasbord of richly developed characters, especially Calamity’s feisty elderly crime-fighting sidekicks, make up for the story’s predictable ending.

It seems apparent readers just can’t get enough of this kind-hearted, frizzy-haired amateur sleuth. Calamity Jayne is the first installment in Kathleen Bacus’s series: Calamity Jayne Rides Again, Ghouls Just Want to Have Fun and Calamity Jayne Goes to College.

If you’re interested in a light beach read, pick this one up. A word to the wise: if you’re prone to laughing out loud when reading funny books, try not to read Calamity Jayne when you’re sandwiched between two sleeping passengers on an airplane…sometimes we learn these things the hard way.

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