Thursday, November 7, 2002

Review - Bubbles in Trouble by Sarah Strohmeyer

If I hadn't been asked to review Bubbles in Trouble I wouldn't have considered reading it. The title alone turned me off. The book jacket is pink, blue and yellow with a pair of spike-heeled leopard print shoes and a water pistol emitting yellow bubbles. My first thought was that it was a book about a monkey. When I ran the title by two male friends they assumed it was about a stripper.

As it turns out, Bubbles in Trouble is good for laughs, entertaining characters and well-worked story lines. Vermont novelist Sarah Strohmeyer weaves a good mystery. The whodunits, all three of them, had me guessing until the very end.

But the character names distracted me from the mysteries. Bubbles Yablonsky? Who would name a child Bubbles? Bubbles has dealings with Nimrod Oggledorp, a store clerk. Bubbles' man of the hour is Steve Stiletto. Her ex-husband is Dan the Man, who now goes by the name Chip. Her mother is LuLu, who lusts after Fast Car.

There is a definite Janet Evanovich feel to Bubbles in Trouble, right down to the prominence of TastyKakes. Strohmeyer mentions on her Web site that she once interviewed Evanovich and said she'd like to write similar books. The title for the first Bubbles novel, Bubbles Unbound, came from Evanovich.

Bubbles is a life-loving character with a big heart and determination to get the job done. She is beautician extraordinaire at the House of Beauty in Lehigh, Pa. She is very proud of her bleached-blonde big hair and her ability to gossip with the best of them. Bubbles is also supremely dedicated to makeup, high heels, a Valentine-red Super Wonderbra, and Saran-Wrap-tight tank tops and sweaters. She drives an old Camaro, her dream car.

Bubbles works part time as a newspaper reporter, which is what sends her off in search of answers in Bubbles in Trouble. The story is set mostly in Amish country. To read about Bubbles giving up her clothes, makeup, electricity and running water for undercover work is entertaining to the point of out-loud laughter. Furthermore, she is the first character I have come across whose IQ increases to genius level after ingesting marijuana.

At the least, I expected the book would be a quick read and mildly entertaining. At the most I hoped that I was completely wrong with my first impressions and I would be turned on to a new novelist.

I'm not persuaded to go back and read the first "Bubbles" book, but I'll keep it in mind if my library runs short.

Sarah Strohmeyer is a former journalist who grew up in Pennsylvania and now lives near Montpelier, Vt., with her family. Her first Bubbles book, Bubbles Unbound, won the Agatha Award.

Title: Bubbles in Trouble
Author: Sarah Strohmeyer
Publisher: Dutton
ISBN: 978-0451208507
Pages: 336
Price: $7.99

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