This is the third entry in a slapdash, over-the-top mystery series featuring Bubbles Yablonsky, a hairdresser who looks like trailer trash but who longs to become a respected journalist. On the way to her goal, she stumbles and bumbles into one mystery after another, with the aid and support of the Mel-Gibson-esque Steve Stilleto, a top-level news photographer, whom she met on her first assignment.
Bubbles lives in a small blue/black-collar town in a part of America usually forgotten - the coal mines of Pennsylvania. Every character has a story connected to mining; Bubbles' father was killed when she was a young girl because, her family believes, he was a union organizer. Steve, the estranged step-son of a ruthless mine owner, hates his connection to the misery wreaked by Big Coal on innocent men and women.
It's almost impossible to describe a Strohmeyer plot; in a review of an earlier book in the series I think I said she used every idea she ever had. In my 40-some years of mystery-reading I can't think of a more convoluted (and somewhat ridiculous and highly unbelievable) plot.
In this outing Bubbles has left hairdressing for journalism and gets involved in a life-threatening, mysterious "accident" in a mine thought to be dormant and where a murder occurs while she and Steve are there after receiving mysterious messages. The race is on, with casino gambling, underground mine fires, a pierogi fight and who-knows-what's-next among the dozen or so plots and sub-plots.
Normally that would bother me. But Strohmeyer has a tremendous gift for creating eccentric characters, ones you usually can't help but love and want more of. Bubbles can spot a phony ten miles away, but her big heart accepts even the strangest individual, if s/he is hurt and honest (except the multi-pierced "G," a suitor for the hand of her beloved, ultra-smart daughter, Jane, whom she has raised single-handedly and for whom she wants a better future than that which Bubbles endured.
Strohmeyer's work resembles that of reigning working-class detectives' Queen Janet Evanovich, but I like Bubbles and her crew more (making me, a NJ native, a traitor of sorts). Their stories, like Bubbles, continue to develop in each book. Your suspension of disbelief will have to be extra-willing at times, but the fun to be had makes it worthwhile.