Friday, November 5, 2010

Toxic Waste by Helen Goodman

book cover

Toxic Waste
by Helen Goodman

ISBN-13: 978-0-373-26642-5
Mass Market Paperback: 252 pages
Publisher: Worldwide Mystery
Released: 2008

Source: Bought at a library book sale.

Book Description from Back Cover:
Recently recovered from a stroke, Fonnie Beachum is ready to reclaim her life--with a little help from her grandson, a rookie cop, and a competent but preoccupied aide who helps out daily. But her bustling North Carolina town is embroiled in a bitter controversy over a proposed landfill, and Fonnie has divided loyalties. When Christine Hauner, Fonnie's aide, is found dead at a demonstration, the older woman takes it personally.

Along with her new friend Bebe Englehook, a dedicated activist determined to expose the dangerous landfill scheme, Fonnie digs into Christine's past. But high-stakes corruption and scandal are dangerous traps for a woman just learning to walk with a cane. But Fonnie hasn't come this far to sell out to a clever killer--at any price.

My Review:
Toxic Waste is a cozy mystery with an elderly lady doing the detecting with the help of some friends. The target audience appeared to be adult women. This book is the second in the series, but you don't need to have read the first book to follow this one.

The story had a serious tone since the characters were dealing with realistic problems, like Fonnie learning to get her independence back and dealing with feeling insecure in her house after her house was robbed. The characters were varied and engaging. The mystery was a somewhat complex whodunit with a surprising solution. Suspense was created by the physical danger to those investigating the crime.

I accept why Fonnie felt the need to "help the police out" up until she solved the crime. However, I wasn't convinced by her reasoning after she solved the mystery which led her to put herself (and others) in danger in the grad finale scene. The author also had a supporting character do something supremely stupid (tell information to someone she suspected which would put her life in danger if he indeed was the killer) near the end to create suspense. Characters that suddenly do something (uncharacteristically) stupid which puts them in danger is a pet peeve of mine, so I found this annoying.

Cover Note: While there was concern in the story about landfill leakage contaminating local water sources, this story has nothing to do with dumping toxic waste directly into streams like this cover and book title suggests.

There was no sex. There was a very minor amount of bad language. Despite the author hitting a pet peeve of mine, I enjoyed this mystery and would recommend it.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
October 5

I'm scared. It's a new feeling for me. Even when I had my stroke I wasn't scared. Depressed? Yes. But not scared. I knew I would either die or learn to cope. Dying would have been easier, but instead, I coped. It hasn't been simple. Physical therapy is brutal, but I've made progress. My doctor says I don't need to be at Springwillow now. I've gone from a wheelchair to a quad cane. I can shuffle down the hall. And with Velcro, I can pretty much dress myself. But am I really ready to go home?

And the worst thing about being afraid is I can't tell anybody. I have my public persona to protect. I'm the invincible Fonnie Beachum, next in line to the unsinkable Mollie Brown. But surely even Mollie had her periods of self-doubt, her "monsters under the bed" moments.

Fonnie studied the computer screen; she glanced over her left shoulder to be sure no one had come up behind her. The room was empty except for the row of monitors with their multicolored screen savers waiting to commune with other lonely souls. Several months ago she'd started keeping a journal. Brian had suggested it. "It'll be good for you, Gram. Just write whatever comes into your head. It's like having your own private shrink, except instead of lying on a sofa, you can spill your guts to the computer."

"And this is supposed to save my sanity?"

"Well," Brian said, giving her a big grin. "Maybe not save it, but it'll make losing your mind more interesting."

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