It Happened in South Beach
Heroine Tilly Snapp is one smart and resourceful woman. Unfortunately, she also makes a number of decisions in this book just for the sake of keeping the plot moving that – it has to be said – flirt dangerously in the TSTL zone. Still, the author’s voice is so fresh and funny and her characters so endearing that I really don’t give the proverbial rat’s behind if the plot of this charming novel ultimately doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
Tilly is a romance novel staple: the overly responsible, overly inhibited, uptight, professional woman. Now widowed after a short and disappointing marriage, 26-year old Tilly inherits the South Beach Miami shop of her recently deceased “wild” Aunt Ginger. Dear old Auntie, it seems, operated a shop specializing in historical erotic artifacts called, appropriately enough, Erratica and may – just may – have also been involved in international art thievery.
Or so sexy Interpol agent Will Maitland tells Tilly, anyway. Not surprisingly, Tilly doesn’t believe the allegations for a minute but, even more astonishingly, the hyper-responsible young woman is shocked to realize that she herself is also under suspicion for the same crime: the theft of the Chinese “pillow box” of Win Win Poo. All that’s bad enough, but Will has even worse news for Tilly. Since the ropes securing her to the boat were clearly cut, her aunt’s death while parasailing in Jamaica was anything but the accident Tilly believed it to be.
Now, here’s the bad news for readers: Tilly decides to “investigate” herself. (I hate it when that happens.) So, we’re dealing with murder, really bad people, and big money art theft – not to mention that she herself is under suspicion for some pretty serious crimes – and our 26 year old uber-smart heroine undertakes to solve what Interpol and the FBI can’t. Uh-huh. Still, I liked Tilly – make that I really liked Tilly – and found her thoughts (the book is first person) so funny that I just didn’t care if she acts like a bimbo for a good chunk of the book.
Hero Will is a lesser presence here, but a charming one, nevertheless. I have to admit, however, that he does seem a bit…well, flat, especially when compared to the far more interesting and three-dimensional Tilly and the two friends who assist her. To complicate hero-bonding matters even further, the author is quite clearly more than a little bit taken with a handsome movie star who makes a few appearances in the book and who is so funny, charming, and dynamic that he also sometimes overshadows the guy who’s supposed to be the real hero of the story. While that’s bad news for Will, it’s good news for readers since the actor does wear that familiar “Future Hero” sign on his forehead.
I had another small problem with the book. The author determinedly closes the bedroom door – with a big, hard bang, mind you – every time Tilly and Will get to know each other better. These days that seems both artificial and kind of 1950s and the book would have been a better one if the author had chosen to give us a even a little, tiny peek into their intimacy.
Minor quibbles aside, however, I found my first novel by this author to be a terrific read. It’s always a nice surprise to discover a writer whose voice really appeals to you and Jennie Klassel is such a find for me. Smart, charming, and amusing, It Happened in South Beach is a book deserving of a wide audience from an author who clearly bears watching.