Dead Little Dolly, by Elizabeth Kane Buzelli ****

  This is the first title I’ve read of this engaging cozy mystery series created around Dolly, the local sheriff of a tiny mid-western town. The setting, located in Northwestern Michigan, is original and well conceived; the pacing and transitions are deft and clearly the work of an experienced writer. Best of all are the characterizations, which are colorful and distinctive without being so wildly eccentric as to become caricatures or stereotypes.

I will admit that when it comes to cozy mysteries, I am a hard sell. I want working class protagonists, first off; no wealthy people on cruises or in drawing rooms for me (Dame Agatha Christie as the legendary, sole exception to my rule). I don’t like to see improbable individuals solving crimes that go right over the heads of the police, and I will not read a cozy mystery I even suspect may contain a recipe somewhere. If a novel needs recipes to sell, it’s not much of a novel.

Dead Little Dolly meets all of my snooty criteria. The title character, Dolly, is the sheriff of her tiny town, and has all sorts of family baggage that comes into play. Her mother abandoned her as an infant to join some religious cult in France, and now that she is a single mother, she sternly rejects her grandmother’s wish to contact said long-gone mother. I loved what Dolly had to say about her mother’s lack of responsibility and what might have happened because of it: “How’d she know I’d turn out so good?” This really cracked me up.

There are a couple of somewhat weak spots: the notion that Emily, the journalist, must keep news of our crime prominent in the local press “to keep the pressure on” is nonsense. When this is done, on whom is the pressure supposed to be placed? On THE POLICE. In this case, the police–a force of one–is the victim, and already highly motivated to solve the crime. Are we seeking the assistance of the FBI? No. There is no basis for it, and it is not mentioned. So this particular chunk of motivation is weak.

However, the story is so riveting and such great fun that I was ready to overlook that bit, and indeed kept reading well past my bedtime.

A particularly delicious secondary plot was the coming nuptials of an 80-year-old bride. Her mother had been against the match, and they had waited till her death to wed. The old bird lived to be 101 years old, and now a certain amount of haste was required to give the newlyweds a maximum period of wedded bliss. (I confess this made me think a bit of my favorite aunt, who was widowed at 30 and remarried at 70.)

Dead Little Dolly is a good fun romp, exactly what the doctor ordered when you need a beach read or a little something to take your mind off of your own worries. If you enjoy a good cozy mystery, this one is highly recommended.

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