Reviewed by Donna Meredith
Hiding Gladys, a Cleo Cooper mystery by Lee Mims, reads easily, the pages gliding by in quick succession.
Interesting facts about geology weave their way through this debut novel since Cleo is a field geologist. So was the author, lending authenticity to the science behind this entertaining story. But Mims never forgets a novelist’s first duty is to entertain, and she does this admirably.
The novel begins not with a bang, but with a buzz: the sound of the rattlesnake in the backseat of Cleo’s Jeep. In a panic, Cleo veers off the highway. While she waits for ex-husband Bud to rescue her, the dashing Nash Finley happens along. Cleo’s libido revs up in Finley’s presence, even though the fellow geologist is her competitor in the search for the next big thing in the world of rocks. And Cleo has found the next big thing: an unprecedented granite deposit of epic proportions on Gladys Walton’s North Carolina farm.
Mims initially embroils these characters in an interesting set of circumstances, but it’s a tad unbelievable that Cleo isn’t immediately suspicious, considering that Nash Finley just happens to drive by right after she wrecks her Jeep. And right after a rattlesnake has somehow managed to find its way into her vehicle. Apparently, Nash’s sex appeal sweeps every sensible thought from Cleo’s mind. Not the first gal to suffer from that weakness.
The novel’s tension stems from piling on one scary event after another. Gladys disappears. Cleo finds a body in Gladys’s well. Next, Cleo falls in the well and could have died. Almost as an afterthought, she later says that “someone might have snuck up” on her and lifted her feet out from under her. If someone grabbed your feet and lifted you up, it seems as if you might have more than a “suspicion that had been nagging.” Again, Cleo seems rather clueless.
This isn’t a whodunit, in the typical sense of the word, since it’s relatively clear which characters, in addition to Nash, are behind the mayhem. Gladys’s greedy, ill-mannered children, Robert Earle and Shirley, want their mother to sign a Power of Attorney agreement. Shirley’s boyfriend, thuggish Ivan, assists in their plan to gain control of Gladys’s farm—and the massive wealth the granite is likely to produce. The plot isn’t littered with red herrings that divert the attention elsewhere.
Even though we know who the bad guys are, suspense builds as we wonder whether Cleo will succeed in finding Gladys and retaining the right to quarry the granite—and in waiting for the moment when Cleo will realize her ex-husband Bud is twice the man that sexy scoundrel Nash Finley is.
Cleo’s irreverent and sometimes snarky voice makes for enjoyable reading. If you’re looking for a light-hearted mystery, give Hiding Gladys a try.
Lee Mims lives in Clayton, N.C., and is a popular wildlife artist. The second book in the Cleo Cooper mystery series, Trusting Viktor, has also been published by Midnight Ink.
Click here to purchase this book: