Former Fort Mill resident Mignon F. Ballard has penned the fourth installment of her mystery series about first grade teacher Miss Dimple Kilpatrick, titled “Miss Dimple Picks a Peck of Trouble.”
Those familiar with the series will feel at home while reading the new book, set once again in Elderberry, Ga., during World War II. The series picks up with familiar characters including Miss Dimple and her fellow teachers, friends, and mystery solvers Charlie Carr and Annie Gardner, along with the many other fascinating characters who make up the small town.
While the characters and setting will be familiar to those who have read the previous books in the series, new readers can pick up “Miss Dimple Picks a Peck of Trouble” without missing a step. The plot does not rely heavily on information from the past books and the characters are reintroduced to the audience.
Ballard captures the feeling of a small town through the connectedness and relationships between the characters. The murder of an Elderberry teenager, Prentice Blair, leads Miss Dimple to seek answers, rooting through the personal relationships, grudges and feelings between those living in the town. The murder is paired with the characters’ constant fear of receiving bad news about loved ones fighting overseas, capturing the experience of the World War II era.
Miss Dimple and her friends seek information about the murder from a multitude of characters, from the somewhat crazy Hattie McGee, to Prentice’s former boyfriend Clay Jarrett.
Ballard’s narration skips around, detailing the lives of many of those characters, which gives the reader a chance to examine the thoughts of those who have been effected by the murder. The amount of characters can be overwhelming at first, but each character plays a significant role in the town of Elderberry and in moving the plot forward.
The plot progresses as other crimes and clues are uncovered, leaving Miss Dimple and the others with more questions than answers, especially as they try to find out if Prentice was secretly seeing someone other than Jarrett.
Although Miss Dimple and her cohorts cover a lot of ground throughout the book, the pacing is comfortable. Ballard, who recently relocated to her native Georgia, keeps the plot moving from the first page and supplies plenty of twists that make the book difficult to put down.
Many mystery novels are too predictable, but Ballard keeps the audience guessing until the end. The clues collected by Miss Dimple and the other residents of Elderberry answers the many questions they faced after Prentice’s murder shakes their small town.
Throughout the series Miss Dimple has made it evident that she can solve a mystery, while Ballard has proven her ability to write one.