Berkley Prime Crime actually used a quote from one of my previous reviews of a J.J. Cook mystery on the cover of this latest one, In Hot Water. It says, "A master of cliff hangers." If you don't believe it, this latest book is another piece of evidence to prove that. Time and again, J.J. Cook leaves Fire Chief Stella Griffin worrying about the late Fire Chief, and ghost, Eric Gamlyn. It's not easy, either, for the reader to worry about a ghost.
The Sweet Pepper, Tennessee, volunteer fire department was able to put out the fire that destroyed former state representative Barney Falk's house, but he was found dead. And, the fire department could have used more water than the trucks could supply. Everyone in town seems to have answers for the fire department. When Stella proposes a fire boat, one citizen has an old wooden boat he's eager to sell. A family of boat builders have a boat, and sweeten the pie by offering up Rufus as a volunteer for the fire brigade, and a possible date for Stella. Why doesn't anyone have answers to the suspicious nature of the fire at Falk's house, or the suspicious powder found in it? And, who would like to stop the investigation, enough to kidnap Stella?
It's a good thing Eric has discovered he can leave his cabin. Until now, the ghost had been tied to the two places closest to him, the cabin he shares with Stella, and the old fire station. That may all end if a local man gets his way, and can bulldoze Eric's cabin. But, until then, the late fire chief uses his new ability to rediscover Sweet Pepper, and to help Stella when she's in danger, or needs help in an extreme emergency.
As fire chief, Stella is discovering that life in a small town isn't always so different from life in Chicago. Cronyism and deals are universal. But, intimidation, kidnapping, and murder, and the ghost of the late fire chief, have become a disturbing part of her life in Sweet Pepper. Now In Hot Water, with its distressing ending, leaves readers worrying about the future of Cook's amateur sleuths. It's a riveting story, but justice and a peaceful life always seem just around the corner in J.J. Cook's nerve wracking page turners.
J.J. Cook's website is www.jjcook.net
In Hot Water by J.J. Cook. Berkley Prime Crime. 2015. ISBN 9780425252628 (paperback), 293p.
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.