Nearly Departed in Deadwood by Ann Charles

10328119I was flipping through my Romantic Times magazine and immediately honed in on a full-page ad displaying the colorful book covers for Anne Charles’ Deadwood mystery series. The purple cowgirl boots, the dilapidated haunted house, the rural South Dakota setting – it all looked pretty awesome to me! Lo and behold, I found it on my Nook for a darned good deal, and now I’m totally hooked in Violet Parker’s rip-roaring real estate adventures!

The mystery revolves around Violet, a single mom who’s struggling to keep her fledgling real estate gig afloat.  She’s desperate to make a sale, but her only prospect is a crumbling old house filled with wall-to-wall clown paraphernalia – yikes! And it doesn’t help that her only buyer, Doc, is constantly rejecting the historic homes. Why is he always sniffing around the rooms like a bloodhound? And what’s the deal with his mysterious day job? Of course, Violet’s only priority is to make a sale before her three week deadline is up, but she can’t help but to wonder about the enigmatic hottie. Not that it matters because her best friend is totally infatuated with Doc. Plus she’s dating Wolfgang, a wealthy jeweler who just inherited the creepy clown house, so the last thing she needs is another male distraction. Uh yeah, right!

Things get complicated when Violet discovers that little girls are vanishing from Deadwood. Fearing that her daughter might be the next face on the missing girls posters, Violet sets forth on a mission to find the kidnapper. Good thing she formed an accidental friendship with a gun-toting old codger named Harvey. He may be crusty on the outside, but underneath that grisly exterior, he’s a total softy. He’s kind of like a male version of the ubiquitous “zany grandma” characters that you see in Janet Evanovich books. But despite the cliché, the banter between Harvey and Violet is incredibly funny.  Between his inappropriate quips and her neuroticisms, they make an excellent team!

Speaking of fun secondary characters, Doc sure kept me guessing. Although he’s dating Violet’s best friend, he spends a lot of time protecting her from potential stalkers. And when he’s not at his mysterious job, he’s in the library pouring through books about Deadwood’s historic sites. Clearly he and Violet have some serious fireworks brewing, but there’s too much at stake if they act on their desires.

There’s so many questions that need to be answered – and I’m already starting to miss old Harvey and his potty mouth humor!  Even though this book is heavily steeped in romance, the author does a fine job keeping the focus on the mystery. I enjoyed watching Violet and her trusty sidekick confront possible suspects and piece together clues in creepy old houses. Plus there’s a scene toward the very end that gave me the willies.  Don’t be fooled by the light-hearted banter and silly antics, this book isn’t for the faint of heart!

I still have so many questions about Violet’s backstory – and what the heck is haunting the woods surrounding Harvey’s house. But, alas, I must knock off a couple more books on my to-read list before downloading another e-book. So many books, so little time!

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