More great stuff from Jane Harper. This one is a murder mystery set in the small town of Evelyn Bay, Australia. I, for one, have never been to Australia, and I very much doubt that they would let me in the country given my past, but there was still a lot that rang true for me about this book. For instance, when my kids were young, we used to take them in the summertime to a small seaside resort town not unlike Evelyn Bay, until we were eventually forced to leave due to the controversy at the ice cream store.
The store was called - I shit you not - Ye Olde Ice Cream Shoppe. First off, did they even have ice cream in medieval England? I suppose I could check, but I honestly don't give a crap. And more importantly, why do stores think misspelling their names will make people want to patronize them? The souvenir shop down the block was called Kountry Korner. What the fuck? If you spell it correctly, it's already alliterative. Do you think I'm going to take pity on you and buy a t-shirt that says "Chickens: The Pet that Poops Breakfast" because I think you're an imbecile? I am not.
The shoppe had a sign in the window that said "World's Greatest Ice Cream," which was a bit of a stretch, although it was priced as if it were an undisputed fact. The more offensive sign, in my opinion, was the one that said "All Toppings 1 Dollar." This was at a time when a dollar could actually buy something, a lot of things actually, all of which were more valuable than a teaspoon of hot fudge. And the teenagers trying to fight through their hangovers who worked there seemed to get their jollies from stiffing you. You might expect a little acknowledgement from them, the nod and the wink that says, "Yeah, this cone is twice what it should cost, but we're going to pile on the Oreos to make you feel better." Not a chance. My kids liked sprinkles, and that dollar I shelled out got them such a paltry serving of sprinkles that I could count every one in the time it took me to bring the cone back to the table.
So I did the only reasonable thing. I started bringing my own sprinkles and heaping them on myself. Happy kids, 2 extra bucks in my pocket, win/win! It worked so well, I decided to go one step further. The next time, I got a table around the corner and out of sight from the window, brought a pint of (appropriately priced) ice cream from the grocery store, and just asked for a couple of cones. They were so surprised by the ask, they gave them to me for free! I assembled the treats (no skimping on the sprinkles) and brought them back to the kids - total victory!
Someone must have been watching though, because the next time I showed up, the manager was waiting for me and refused to sell me empty cones. I offered to pay an appropriate rate for the cones, and I pointed out that their extensive signage made no mention of bringing food onto the premises, but before I knew it, the local Podunk police were there helping us "talk through this situation calmly," which was the last thing I wanted to do. And you know how small towns are. Despite the fact that I ended up buying the regular cones (no sprinkles this time, thank you), word got around quick. The next day I went into the coffee shop and the server asked me if I was planning on just buying a cup today. It was clear that our days in this town were numbered. But despite the mistreatment we suffered, we have kept our fond memories of those trips, and we moved on to even better family vacations, because everyone knows that going to the beach actually sucks.