Thursday, June 4, 2009

Another Trailer Park Mystery Treat

Revenge and Justice

Best Served Cold, Jimmie Ruth Evans
This is the third in the Trailer Park Mystery series by
Dean James, aka Jimmie Ruth Evans. I really enjoy this series. Wanda Nell is a person I'd like to know. Although I've never been a single parent and have never lived in a trailer park, I can still relate to her struggles to maintain her dignity and her own sense of herself in a small town in the deep South. The fictional Tullahoma, MS reminds me a lot of Columbia, LA, especially the various characters, warts and all. James (writing as Jimmie Ruth Evans) doesn't glorify small towns, nor does he commit the unforgivable sin of ridiculing southern characters. They simply are what they are, without gross exaggeration or caricature. I deeply respect that. Their struggles, jealousies, friendships, squabbles and politics make me ever so slightly homesick sometimes. And make me glad not to live there anymore, too. Odd feeling, that.

In Best Served Cold Wanda Nell's baby brother Rusty returns to Tullahoma, attitude and all, and shortly afterwards, the murders begin. Of course, Rusty is implicated and Wanda Nell has to try to prove he is innocent. The title implies that revenge is the big motive for the murders. Well, revenge is important, but to the plot in general and I appreciate that even the title is a red herring of sorts.

This is the first time we've met Wanda Nell's brother and I immediately dislike him. He grows on me, though, as the story progresses and I most imagine that is James' intent. By the time the story is concluded and the murders solved, I like Rusty very much and have started feeling some motherly concern about him.

I have some quibbles with the plot, though. If I mention them, I'll probably give away the plot, but since no one reads my blog, it's not as though it matters. I find the characters believable, especially the red-neck good old boys who are full of themselves because of their small town political connections. They are the children of the big fish in the local pond. The sense of entitlement of those in power, no matter how small the pond, never really changes. Only the venue. So it comes as no surprise to learn that certain of the "in" crowd did something heinous and got away with it through parental intervention. I have no problem believing that part of the story.

What I have a problem believing is that so many people in a small Mississippi town give a hoot in a whirlwind about a gang of well-connected rapists ravaging a poor black girl. Not way back when the crime happened and not in the present. I just don't believe the community at large, and especially the legal community as portrayed in this book, would all band together to seek justice for the victim. That's just not the reality of anywhere in the US, not just the South. Maybe that's just my cynicism, but there it is. I guess that is my own prejudice, but it's not as though it's not based on certain real experiences.

As a bleeding heart liberal, I appreciated the story. As a feminist who's been concerned about women and sexual assault for well over 30 years, I truly and deeply appreciate that this novel doesn't shy away from the devastation this crime caused and that the author felt compelled not only to cry out for justice, but to see to it that it was delivered via the legal system, not via violence. And I appreciate that the story ends with justice being provided, the bad guys losing face in their community, and long-estranged family members being reunited with hope for the future. But all that's fiction. I like happy endings. I just don't believe this one is true to the reality of the South as I see it. I like it very much. I just don't believe it would really happen, sorry to say.

That being said, I'm looking forward to the rest of the books in the series so I can find out what happens to Wanda Nell, her newly outed gay son, her daughter who had a bi-racial child out of wedlock, the "good" daughter who causes no one any problems (surely that can't last, can it?), the newly discovered bi-racial nephew, etc. That's a load of problems for further novels to delve into and I'm eager to see how Jimmie Ruth Evans deals with them.

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