Reviewed by: Pete Barber
Approximate word count: 65,000-70,000 words
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Judy Nichols lives in Wilmington, NC. She has a bachelor’s degree in Journalism. Sportsman’s Bet is her third novel.
When Velma Saunders, the town clerk of Tobias, North Carolina, is murdered, Ian Dodge is hired as a private detective to find out whodunit.
This is a simple tale (that’s not meant as a criticism) where the reader is led through a series of clues and events as seen through the eyes of the private investigator, Ian Dodge. His remit is to find evidence to support reasonable doubt that the person who is accused of Velma’s murder didn’t actually do the deed. In the course of his investigations, though, he ends up going beyond his calling and solving the case.
The story is set in eastern NC. I enjoyed the way the author described both the North Carolina towns and the locals. Having lived in that area for a number of years, I think she captured the essence very nicely.
Overall, I enjoyed the story except for two aspects, and it is quite reasonable to assume these may be specific to me alone:
1. The investigation delves deeply into Velma’s family, and I found the number of names of her relations very confusing. I’d have preferred if the author had named only those relations who would have a direct impact on the plot. Some people enjoy delving into a family tree, which would make this aspect a positive. I don’t, so this is a personal preference.
2. The usage of Cockney Rhyming slang by Ian Dodge (he’s an English transplant) didn’t work as humor for me. But I’m an English transplant, and that may not be true for American readers who might find this foible quite charming.
So, if you enjoy a good murder mystery and neither of these niggles is an issue for you, I’d recommend you give Sportsman’s Bet a shot.
A few, not enough to distract from the read.
Rating: **** Four stars