N.M. Kelby: Murder at the Bad Girls Bar and Grill

by Rachel Baker on October 5, 2008

There are three types of folks that live in Florida.  There are those of us born here; there are those of us who have moved here from “up north” (which means anywhere in the US) because the weather is better here year round; and there are those of us that came to visit and never left for a reason other than the weather. This third grouping are the people who understand you can be yourself here – wacky and odd, if you so choose.  Those of us who were born here may have left and come back, because we realized a) the weather was better here year round and b) after visiting other places, this is the best place in the country and c) there’s no other place in the country you can be as carefree as you can here.  Not that I’m biased.  And N.M. Kelby knows these groups as evidenced in her newest book, Murder at the Bad Girl’s Bar and Grill.

There’s an interesting phenomenon, amongst these groups of people.  Non-natives of Florida believe natives are really odd. When I joined the Navy, I met people who were astounded that I was born in Florida, and some of them even bought that my mother wrestled alligators. (Sorry, Mom, it was just too funny to watch people’s faces when I told them this.) We do, sometimes, become fanatical about litter on our beaches and highways; and well, sometimes we go to extreme lengths to keep a developer from acquiring enough land to build big concrete cells or to put up windmills for energy, because it would screw up the natural habitats. Seriously.  We are, in fact, sometimes, a little odd about the extremes we will go to in preserving the environment we love. Mangroves, Manatees, Shorelines, Swamps and Sugar Cane – we love them all and we will strap ourselves to an alligator to protect them.

Which brings me to the main topic of this article (translation: I apologize for setting up this review with a tree-hugging, Florida native rant, but the opportunity was there), Murder at the Bad Girl’s Bar & Grill by N.M. Kelby.  This book is witty, funny and full of characters I could relate to!  I know the character who owns a bar, refuses to close down and sell the property to a developer, while taming a vulture (or a possum, or a raccoon, or even an alligator) and falling in love with a kind-hearted clown (we have a lot of those here!).  Natives to Florida ARE the group of people who damn a live entertainer for knowing more Barry Manilow than Jimmy Buffett.  Those are the people I call my friends.

In fact, the setting in M at the BGBG reminds me of my favorite little beach bar, Archie’s Sea Breeze, about two blocks from where I live.  Some of the characters in the book remind me of some of the regulars at Archie’s (no name dropping in the interest of privacy).  This is not to say, the owner of Archie’s has fought with developers (I can’t be sure if she has) or tamed a vulture, or fallen in love with a clown, but I suspect, if she thought about changing the name of the bar, it might just be changed to something similar to the Bad Girl’s Bar & Grill.

Murder at the Bad Girl’s Bar & Grill, is a hilarious story with a great cast of characters.  The owner of the bar is a retired actress who constantly compares every situation to an old horror movie she was in:

Danni would like to reassure him.  “Hey, what’s a little ritualistic behavior between friends?” she wants to say, but doesn’t.  She once said that in The Lust of the Vamire Cheerleaders and things did not go well – not well at all.

She’s fighting the acting president of the Chamber of Commerce and minority owner of Laguna Key (the town the story takes place in) to keep the bar she’s just opened.  He thinks the bar is an economic plight on the community.  The real issue is the land the bar is on is right smack in the middle of land owned by a developer who wants to build a big shopping area.  Danni inherited the bar, and evidently there’s historic value in the land, but she’s got to figure out what this value is.  There’s fire, murder, and clowns all throughout the story.

Wait!  Did I say, clowns?  Yes, ladies and gentleman, I said clowns in the same sentence as fire and murder.  Weird?  You better believe it! There’s also a blue’s loving transient who keeps showing up to rescue the developer’s daughter from her psychotic husband, and a security guard who solves the case before the FBI do.  Did I tell you, there are clowns?

N.M. Kelby has written a book in true Carl Hiaasen and Tim Dorsey style. This book belongs on all Floridian reading stacks as a reminder of how great life is here and how very odd our friends really are. Murder at the Bad Girls Bar & Grill also belongs in the beach bag of those visiting our beautiful state of Florida. A note of warning to those reading this book on a Florida vacation: while reading Murder at the Bad Girl’s Bar & Grill, the desire may be very strong to jump in your rental car, find the Bad Girls Bar and Grill, and never leave the state.  Let it happen.  Feel the pull that’s kept us natives here for so long.  Enjoy it, embrace it.  We do…no matter how odd we all seem to be.  Just don’t forget, the reason you once visited is because you enjoyed the shorelines and the fantastic views of the ocean.  😉

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