In a presidential election year, reading a novel set in a Florida retirement community, or anywhere in Florida for that matter, might be the last thing I want to spend my evenings doing. But in N.M. Kelby's Murder at the Bad Girl's Bar and Grill, the Florida retirement community becomes infinitely more fascinating. Reading about the seaside gated complex, populated by these quirky, semi-mythical people is like peering into a little diorama where all the players could comfortably have a drink in a bar full of Tom Robbins characters. There's the one-time B horror movie actress, Danni, who now owns the establishment the book is named for, and who believes that serving coffee is "an insidious form of domestic terrorism—the last vestige of the cold war between the sexes." There's the puppeteer who has tiny wings sprouting from his back, and a landlocked blind mermaid who is perpetually knitting a giant sea-colored scarf. There's the Barry Manilow impersonator whose dog looks more like the singer than his owner. And, of course, there are a few murders to be solved along the way. It's a quick, funny read that doesn't try to be more than it is.
Tue., June 24, 7 p.m., 2008