Sex In A Sidecar - a thriller by Phyllis Smallman

Phyllis Smallman follows up her amazing debut MARGARITA NIGHTS with SEX IN A SIDECAR. On a sultry Florida gulf island, bartender Sherri Travis is mixing drinks at her beloved Sunset Bar in the colourful town of Jacaranda, when Hurricane Myrna blows in. In the final minutes before flight, her nervous friend Gina confesses that she's on the track of her sister's murderer, a serial killer who may still be in the neighbourhood.

While she's evacuating in the panic, Sherri finds herself dubious witness to Gina's own death, then stranded as the road is blocked by a fallen palm. Seeking a ride at a nearby house, Sherri rescues her hateful ex-mother-in-law. With the old bat in the backseat nursing a broken leg, she hustles inland to the hospital, fighting flooded streets and gale-force winds. The scene turns comic as the two formidable ladies spar over Sherri's dead husband. He may have been a blackmailer, but he was Bernice's baby boy, whose only crime was marrying Sherri.

As everyone returns to clean up the devastated island, Sherri finds an interim job. Strolling into a posh beach-and- tennis club as last-minute staff, the wise-cracking lady puts herself front and centre in a hunt for the killer. As she says, "In the rainy season we get hurricanes, in the dry season we get tourists. Both can be nasty. But when they come together, it's murder."

With the same tongue-in-cheek repartee that earned her kudos for her first book, Smallman bars no holds in this second outing. Not only does she nail the noontime-drinks-by-the-pool-discussing-plastic-surgery-techniques set, but she aces the more slithery characters who lurk in the swampy undergrowth one-half step ahead of an alligator. Detective Styles may be non-descript as rice pudding, but he can find "fly [specks] in pepper," as Sherri observes.