The Branson Beautyby Claire Booth (Website)
Series: Sheriff Hank Worth #1
Published by Minotaur Books on July 19, 2016
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Crime, Law & Crime, Murder, Mysteries & Detective Stories
Source: TLC Book Tours
Amazon • Book Depository • Goodreads
I received this book for free from TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
The Branson Beauty, an old showboat, has crashed in the waters of an Ozark mountain lake just outside the popular tourist destination of Branson, Missouri. More than one hundred people are trapped aboard. Hank Worth is still settling into his new role as county sheriff, and when he responds to the emergency call, he knows he’s in for a long winter day of helping elderly people into rafts and bringing them ashore. He realizes that he’ll face anxiety, arguments, and extra costs for emergency equipment that will stretch the county’s already thin budget to the breaking point.
But he is absolutely not expecting to discover high school track star Mandy Bryson’s body locked inside the Captain’s private dining room. Suddenly, Hank finds himself embroiled in a murder investigation, with the county commissioner breathing down his neck and the threat of an election year ahead of him. And as he wades deeper into the investigation, Hank starts to realize he’s up against a web of small town secrets much darker and more tangled than he could have ever imagined.
In her captivating debut novel, Claire Booth has created a broad cast of wonderfully compelling characters, and she perfectly blends humor with the emotional drama and heartache of a murder investigation.
I really love when I can start a book and feel like I’m at home in the world, right from page one, and The Branson Beauty is a book that had me feeling that way as soon as I started reading. Following Sheriff Hank Worth, recently appointed to the position of sheriff of Branson, Missouri, as he navigates the small town politics and budget constraints of a smaller police force. Hank finds himself knee-deep in snow, dealing with a touring paddle boat that ran aground with a quirky staff and really cranky patrons on board, and now the body of a popular girl who’d graduated and shouldn’t have even been in town.
A Strong Sense of Justice, Right and Wrong, and Humor…
Hank Worth left his position as a cop in Kansas City to take this sheriff position so he and his wife could move to her home town to live with her recently widowed father. They also want their two young children to grow up in a city that’s safer with someone who loves them to take care of them all day while Hank does his police duties and his wife works as a surgeon in the ER of the local hospital. With Grandpa Duncan on duty, the children are sure to get great care, even if it’s with a good dose of ribbing from the father-in-law and a bit of guilt for not being around as much as they should be. While Hank brings years of experience investigating crimes in the big city, he’s not prepared for the level of corruption and disdain that some cops and local politicians have for him. But Hank won’t bend his sense of right and wrong or law for anyone–especially the rich and seemingly powerful around Branson.
Hank’s character is wonderful. He’s a cop but he’s a family man, and he’s left trying to fit in time with this two young children and his busy wife in between interviewing witnesses and patrolling the streets of Branson. I loved his sense of humor. He’s witty and a bit sarcastic, and there’s a ton that he has to keep to himself–and I love that he knows that as sheriff, he can’t say much of it out loud since his position is temporary unless he runs in the next election.
A Murder That Leaves Branson Wondering Why…
Popular track star Mandy’s body is found when Hank does one more sweep of the disabled Branson Beauty, and he’s left with having to figure out who had motive to kill her while trying to determine why the boat ran aground. Who would have benefited from both of these things, and why? Hank and his overworked and understaffed police force must pull out all of the stops to close both of these investigations. But Hank runs in to obstacles on all sides, from stubborn witnesses to uncooperative business owners to a demanding city commissioner, and he even has a few problems with some cops on his payroll. None of these things can get in the way of getting justice for Mandy and her family.
Such a realistic family situation…
I really loved the family dynamic between Hank, his wife, their two kids, and his father-in-law Duncan. Their living situation is something that is completely relatable these days, and it’s something that I can identify with since my mother watches my son while my husband and I work. The relationship between Duncan and Hank is really special, and it made me smile quite a bit throughout the book.
I give The Branson Beauty a 4.5 out of five. The mystery wasn’t easily guessed, and Claire Booth’s writing is well-paced, descriptive, and the dialogue is great. Hank was a great character that I’m looking forward to reading about in more books, and we met quite a few people from Branson that I felt like I got to know and I’d like to see again. The secondary characters were fleshed out nicely and were distinct, and I especially enjoyed Hank’s family as well as his closest deputies. I’m definitely looking forward to reading another Hank Worth mystery, especially after how this one ended.
About Claire Booth
This is the tough part. I’m used to writing about other people, not myself. So – here goes. I used to be a reporter, covering crime for daily newspapers. My career has taken me all over the country – I’ve worked in Missouri, Washington, D.C., South Florida, the Seattle region and the Bay Area. My work has appeared in numerous newspapers, including the Miami Herald, San Jose Mercury News,Philadelphia Inquirer and Contra Costa Times.
My first book, The False Prophet: Conspiracy, Extortion and Murder in the Name of God, is the true account of a Northern California man who convinced two followers he was a prophet of God and that he needed to usher in the Second Coming of Jesus Christ by any means necessary. In order to raise money for their end-of-days scheme, the trio killed five people during a tremendously convoluted Bay Area crime spree.
After living with that case for so long, I decided I’d had enough of the real world and turned to fiction. And I’m having so much fun coming up with my own crimes.
I am currently working on Hank Worth’s next case.
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