First off, let me just say that there is one section of dialogue in this book that had me laughing so hard that I was almost crying. I can’t remember the last time that a book did that for me, if ever.

The Smart One is a tale of three very different sisters. We have the oh so pretty Claire that continues to cause tongues to wag when she walks into a room even after two kids. Then we have Joey, the wild child, that was a one hit wonder with music years ago, but saw it all disappear to drugs and is now trying to start over clean and sober. Last, but not least, we have Bev, the smart one that everyone thinks she is wasting her intelligence and should be a doctor like her father.

Bev has finally decided that she wants to be a teacher. A noble profession, no doubt, but she is struggling with doubts as she grapples with what she thinks is scorn for her wasted intellect from her family. Her parents neighbors ask her to help show their house that is up for sale while they are down enjoying their retirement in Florida.

Easy peazy, right? She is waiting to hear back from a school out west and the lease is up on her apartment, so why not? Not so fast. All quickly goes out the window when two things happen. First, the boy that broke her heart as a young girl by sleeping with her sister, Joey, shows up. Second, it seems that her neighbors aren’t quite whom she thought they were. She and her sisters find a body closed up in a metal drum in the crawl space.

What follows is a sometimes heart wrenching, but always funny story of just what those identities or labels that are put on you as a kid can do. And oh yeah, we have to find out how is in the barrel and who murdered her! The pretty girl Claire has to realize that even though she is getting older, that she is more than her looks. The wild child has to get past her wild life and prove to her siblings that she can be trusted again. Then of course, the smart one has to realize that it is okay to be yourself and that no one will hate you if you try and fail.

Ellen Meister has slipped a murder mystery into what might have been a really good book on it’s own and it packs a one two punch. What is even better is the humor. Sarcastic and witty, the interactions of the characters often had me in stitches. The chapter dealing with Glenda the good witch and the little people will be one that I remember for a long time. (see, don’t you want to read it now??)

The Smart One by Ellen Meister
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Avon A (August 5, 2008)
ISBN-10: 0061129623
ISBN-13: 978-0061129629