Feeling the urge for some popcorn for the brain - or, since it is summer, perhaps a shaved ice for the brain - I turned to one of Carolyn Haines' SoutFeeling the urge for some popcorn for the brain - or, since it is summer, perhaps a shaved ice for the brain - I turned to one of Carolyn Haines' Southern Belle Mysteries. This is the seventh one in the series. I had read the other six and found some of them diverting and others less so. There was at least a fifty percent chance that this one would entertain me.
I don't give up on books. If I choose to start reading one, I'm going to finish it, even if I don't like it. Many, maybe most, readers can't really understand this, feeling that life is too short to waste any of it on a bad book, and they have no hesitation in tossing one aside if it doesn't appeal to them. But I have this sense that I've made a contract with the writer by picking up his/her book and I need to fulfill my contract.
All that being said, I came about as close as I have in recent memory to giving up on a book after about fifty pages of Ham Bones. Although it didn't get any better after that, sadly, but true to my philosophy, I persevered. Those are hours of my life that I will never get back.
So, what was wrong with the book? Well, the plot was implausible and the characters unbelievable. Moreover, the main character, who in the earlier books exhibited a kind of quirky charm, has become whiny and bitter, constantly complaining about her state in life, although most people would probably consider her state in life to be pretty privileged. After all, she is the owner of her ancestral estate, partner in an at least semi-successful private investigation business, and surrounded by scores of friends, who, for no good reason that I can see, think she is wonderful. She just comes off as spoiled and self-centered, not someone the reader can readily root for.
As for the writing, perhaps the less said the better. It is slapdash and careless at best. One example may suffice.
Early in the book, our heroine, Sarah Booth Delaney (who is always referred to as Sarah Booth, never just Sarah) is sent on an errand from her Mississippi Delta hometown of Zinnia to Memphis. As she starts home again, we get this sentence:
As I crossed the mighty Mississippi, my cell phone rang.
Carolyn Haines grew up in Mississippi, as indeed I did, and she now lives in Alabama, so she must surely be aware that Memphis and Mississippi are on the same side of the river. One would not cross the "mighty Mississippi" to go home again from Memphis.
And that pretty much exemplifies the quality of the writing.
The plot, briefly, is this: A Broadway touring company comes to Zinnia to do a week-long run of performances of Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. The company just happens to comprise a number of actors whom Sarah Booth had worked with during her brief stint of trying to make it as an actress in New York. One of them is her former lover. Another is a woman who hated her. Sarah Booth is drafted to be an understudy to the star of the show (the woman who hates her) and in the middle of their first performance, the star is found lying dead on her dressing room floor. Turns out she was poisoned.
But the show must go on and it does, with Sarah Booth in the role. She is a great success, winning rave reviews and no one is the least bit sorry that a woman is dead, because everybody disliked her.
There is the little matter that the woman appears to have been murdered and the person who seems to have gained most from her death is Sarah Booth. Soon the county sheriff who loves her and who she loves is knocking on the door of the old plantation home to arrest Sarah Booth for murder.
Accck!!! I can't go on. Suffice to say that it all works out in the end and it is crystal clear long before the end just what had happened. No real mystery here. Except the mystery of why I read this book all the way to the end.
I have one more book in this series, #8, in my reading queue and, at some point, when the bad taste of this experience has dissipated, I'll probably read it. But unless the quality of it dramatically improves, it will be my last experience with the Southern Belle series.
And here's another of my guilty pleasure reads for the summer - the fifth entry in Carolyn Haines' Sarah Booth Delaney series. It was great fun to reaAnd here's another of my guilty pleasure reads for the summer - the fifth entry in Carolyn Haines' Sarah Booth Delaney series. It was great fun to read and, indeed, may be my favorite in the series so far.
Sarah Booth Delaney's private investigation business in the little delta town of Zinnia, Mississippi, now has an actual business office. She has set up a couple of rooms of her family's plantation home, Dahlia House, as offices for herself and her partner, Tinkie. There's even a place for a receptionist's desk, just in case the business ever grows to the point that it needs one.
Sarah Booth's latest case begins when she is contacted by a nun from New Orleans. The nun is a friend of a woman who is now being held on a warrant from New Orleans in the local Zinnia jail. The woman, Doreen, is a spiritualist and alleged faith healer with a large following in New Orleans. She had a baby who had severe birth defects and the baby has recently died. An autopsy revealed that the cause of death, which was at first thought to be Sudden Infant Death syndrome, had actually been sleeping pills that were put in the baby's formula. The mother has been charged with murder in the case, but the nun doesn't believe she did it and she wants to hire Sarah Booth to establish her innocence.
This creates a bit of a problem for Sarah Booth who has to go to the jail to see Doreen. She had been trying to stay away from the sheriff's office so she wouldn't run into the sheriff, Coleman Peters, for whom she has strong and tender feelings. Problem is Coleman, who reciprocates those feelings, is trying to save his troubled marriage because his deeply troubled wife is pregnant, and he doesn't need to be tempted by Sarah Booth.
Meeting with Doreen does give Sarah Booth and Tinkie the sense that she is most likely innocent of killing her baby, but if she didn't do it, who did? Suspicion settles on the father, but who is that? Doreen refuses to name him.
Doreen is returned to the custody of the New Orleans Police Department and Sarah and Tinkie travel to New Orleans to continue their investigation. They are also (very conveniently) just in time for the Orange and Black Ball, one of the most popular social events of the year. Of course, the two get invited and, of course, just in time, a wealthy suitor from Sarah Booth's past, Hamilton, shows up to escort her to the ball.
In addition to being wealthy and cultured, Hamilton is incredibly handsome and is engaged in trying to make the world a better place. In other words, he is a paragon of virtues. He's also apparently very good in bed, though, naturally, Sarah Booth never gives us the details.
At length, their client, Doreen, is persuaded to give Tinkie and Sarah Booth information about the three men who could possibly be her dead daughter's father. One is a well-known evangelist/faith healer; one is a United States Senator; and one is the financial manager for Doreen's ministry. She had had sex with all three men in an attempt to "heal" them.
The plot becomes very convoluted, with many twists and turns, but I actually figured out pretty early who the culprit was here. That's always satisfying. In the end, Sarah Booth got it, too, and again saved the day.
But she lost Hamilton. And Coleman, at least for now. Coleman ends up taking his mentally deranged wife to a sanatorium in Arizona for the remainder of her pregnancy, so we'll have to wait for the next book to find out how all of that turns out.
Sarah Booth is once again alone at Dahlia House with her nagging ghost, Jitty, who had been the nanny for her great-great-grandmother; her dog, Sweetie Pie; and her horse, Reveler. Will she ever find true love? Probably not for that would put the kibosh on the greater part of the plots of these books.
Continuing with the Mississippi theme in my summer reading, I turned to Ace Atkins' Southern noir series featuring former Army Ranger, now county sherContinuing with the Mississippi theme in my summer reading, I turned to Ace Atkins' Southern noir series featuring former Army Ranger, now county sheriff, Quinn Colson.
Colson is the sheriff of fictional Tibbehah County in Northeast Mississippi, a place somewhere near Tupelo, birthplace of King Elvis. He heads a seven person police force, aided by his chief deputy, Lillie Virgil. From the county seat of Jericho, they do battle with the forces of evil in Tibbehah County, which seems to be a hotbed of sin and moral turpitude, not to mention political corruption.
Jericho and Tibbehah County are still recovering from a recent killer tornado that came close to leveling the town, but progress is being made, and, in some cases, the new Jericho being built is a great improvement over the old destroyed town.
Much of that improvement has come through the efforts of Johnny Stagg, District Supervisor and local businessman and, not incidentally, redneck crime lord. Stagg is behind much of that aforementioned sin, moral turpitude, and political corruption. But it can't be denied that he has aided in the rebuilding of the town.
Meanwhile, Sheriff Colson and Deputy Virgil are being investigated because of a big shootout that occurred at the end of the last book. (It does pay to read these books in order.) Colson's enemies see this as a chance to either get him out of office or to control him while he's in office, and there's another election coming up. It's all politics, but that doesn't make it any more palatable.
Into this frothy mix of disaster recovery and political intrigue comes news that a very bad guy, leader of a motorcycle club that created havoc in the town thirty years before, is about to be released from federal prison after serving his time. This is especially bad news for Johnny Stagg who sees the man as a mortal enemy and fears that when he returns to town he will try to take over from the current redneck crime lord.
Thirty years before, in 1977, something terrible happened in Jericho. Two young teenage girls were abducted along a county road. One was raped and both of them were shot. The younger of the two died. Law enforcement did not catch the man who did it, but shortly afterward, a black man, a stranger in town who had been living rough in the nearby national forest, was taken up by vigilantes, beaten and lynched. He was unknown. His name was never discovered. The vigilantes had convicted him of the abduction, rape, and murder. Later, the surviving victim saw the man who had actually committed the crime in town. The vigilantes had murdered an innocent man.
At the time of these crimes, the sheriff's office only did a half-hearted investigation, but now, the whole thing has been brought to light again because the surviving victim has talked to Sheriff Colson. He and Deputy Virgil are determined to get to the bottom of these very cold cases.
Johnny Stagg has become one of the most interesting characters in this series. He runs a "family restaurant" with a notorious strip club and truck stop located out back. He's trying to build up a drug pipeline, working with some of the Memphis mafia, and he has his fingers in every pie being baked in Tibbehah County. He's a sleazebag and a small town manipulator, masquerading as just another "good ole boy." He keeps looking for the key that will allow him to lock up control of the sheriff and his staff. If he can find it, he will have a totally free hand in building his crime empire.
Locking up Quinn Colson won't be easy though. He lives by the code he learned as an Army Ranger. He is the epitome of incorruptibility and morality. He has a lot of frustrations with the nuances of police work, but fortunately his excellent deputy has his back there. They make a good team.
Ace Atkins writes very knowledgeably about the area where these stories are set. It's an area I know well and I can attest that the language used by his characters and the opinions and attitudes expressed here are spot on. It all makes for a very noirish mix and an entertaining summer read.
It begins with a prison break. Three inmates from Mississippi's notorious Parchman Prison manage to abscond from the place. One in a big truck goes thIt begins with a prison break. Three inmates from Mississippi's notorious Parchman Prison manage to abscond from the place. One in a big truck goes through the gates, while two others escape on horseback.
The two on horseback cut their way through the wire fence around the prison farm and manage to find a car to steal. Then they are on their way to North Mississippi, Tibbehah County and the little town of Jericho, where they plan to confront the man who they believe has the money from an armored truck robbery they pulled off before they were caught and sent to prison.
Meanwhile, in Jericho, Quinn Colson, the veteran of the war in Afghanistan who returned to his home town and was elected sheriff, is, one year later, still adjusting to his new life after several years as an Army Ranger.
His latest challenge is an ex-con named Jamey Dixon who was convicted several years before of killing a local woman. He had made use of his time in prison to earn a degree from a seminary through distance learning. Dixon has been pardoned by the outgoing governor and has returned to Jericho claiming to have been cleansed by Jesus from all his sins. He's trying to establish a ministry in the town, using an old barn as the meeting place.
The family of the woman that Dixon was convicted of killing still think he's guilty and unworthy of a pardon, but many seem to believe in his redemption. One of those, to Quinn Colson's chagrin, is his younger sister, Caddy, a troubled young single mother of a five-year-old son who has been trying to clean up her act and turn her wasted life around for the sake of her son. She completely believes in Dixon and they are planning a life together.
Colson's own love life is not exactly a paragon of rectitude. In fact, it is quite messed up as he continues an affair with his high school sweetheart who is now married to a local doctor with whom she has a daughter.
So, we have a typical small Southern town where everybody knows everybody and everybody's business and most of them are related in some way.
Ace Atkins is a talented writer and he has a genuine ear for North Mississippi speech and for human relationships there. I speak as one who grew up in the area. I recognize these people and I could hear their voices in my ear as I read The Broken Places.
This was the third installment in Atkins' Quinn Colson series and it is definitely my favorite so far. All of the books have been very well written, but this one shows an even stronger sense of place than the earlier two. Moreover, the plot is well conceived and the action is non-stop. It is a real page-turner, one that you don't want to put down once you are into it.
The story of the escaped convicts and their quest to regain their ill-gotten loot moves along briskly with a few dead bodies littering their progress, but then, in the middle of it all and in the middle of law enforcement's search for the killers, a massive storm hits the little town of Jericho, almost destroying it. The search for the hardened criminals takes a back seat to an emergency situation that requires all the resources that the town, the state, and nearby communities can provide.
The miscreants couldn't care less about an emergency situation. They just want their money and a way to get out of town to freedom. It all heads for a showdown - bad guys against good guys.
After all the complications of the plot, Atkins provides the reader with a satisfying climax, and still manages to keep us in suspense as to Colson's fate following the showdown, giving us a reason to look for the next book in the series. His strategy sure worked on me. ...more
I think I might have to categorize this book as one of my guilty reading pleasures. It's a bit of fluff - lighter than air really - but I found it higI think I might have to categorize this book as one of my guilty reading pleasures. It's a bit of fluff - lighter than air really - but I found it highly entertaining. It's a book that fits well with the hot, sultry summer weather when you don't want to tax your brain too severely.
Sarah Booth Delaney is a spinster of 33 years with no prospect of a marriage anytime soon. Or ever. This is not a big point of concern to Sarah Booth Delaney, but in the Delta town of Zinnia, Mississippi, where she lives, it is the kiss of social death.
Sarah Booth (She's always called by both names - it's a Mississippi tradition.) has lived an unconventional life. After college, she went off to New York to try to make it as an actress. When that didn't work out, she returned to her family's ancestral home in Zinnia and started trying to figure out a way to save the farm and herself. The answer she came up with was to become a private investigator. So far, that has kept her afloat. Barely.
Although she's without family, she's not alone in the house. She has a redtick coonhound (which the author insists on calling a "red tic" hound) named Sweetie Pie and the ghost of her great-great-grandmother's nanny named Jitty. Jitty does her best to rule the roost and Sarah Booth and spends most of her time scheming up ways to get Sarah Booth married and producing heirs for the estate. She wants to ensure that she will have another generation of Delaneys to haunt.
The one-hundred-and-fifty-year-old Jitty is always trying to get Sarah Booth to get with the times and modernize her thinking. At one point, she lectures her:
"You're talkin' like a traditionalist. You only want to risk a man that you can pin like a bug and examine. You think you know Harold because he's familiar. Because he's geographically known. You think 'cause he's from right around here that you share values with him." She paused for effect. "That's a might big assumption, young lady."
And that's about as deep as conversations ever get in this book.
The main story concerns a highly dysfunctional family, the wife and mother of whom is a childhood friend of Sarah Booth. When the woman's abusive husband is murdered on their horse farm, in the stall of their most valuable stud horse, she immediately confesses to the murder and asks Sarah Booth to help find evidence that the man "needed to be killed." She's hoping this will sway a jury to believe the killing was justified.
Finding such evidence turns out not to be very hard. The man was really a piece of work and everybody pretty much agreed that he needed to die. But Sarah Booth is not comfortable with her friend's plans for a defense. She doesn't believe she killed anybody but rather that she's trying to protect someone. The most likely target for her protection is her fourteen-year-old daughter, Kip, a very troubled child.
Toss in a melange of characters to keep the plot moving and provide red herrings and you've got one engaging whodunit. Among those characters is the handsome horse trainer who makes all the local ladies want to sign up for lessons; the local girl turned country singer who's ready to make the big push to become a star; the singer's unsavory manager/husband; some gambling mafia types from the coast; a blues singer/guitarist; an Elvis impersonator; and Kinky Friedman. Yes, THAT Kinky Friedman; is there another? Then, of course, there are all the fellow "Daddy's Girls" that Sarah Booth grew up with.
Well, you get the idea. It's a wacky adventure from beginning to end, filled with a lot of Southern charm and just a few bad guys to season the froth, but they all get their comeuppance in the denouement.
Carolyn Haines' writing has been compared to Janet Evanovich and there are definite parallels between the adventures of Sarah Booth Delaney, P.I. and Stephanie Plum, Trenton, New Jersey bounty hunter. They both provide fun reads which seem to have no agenda except to divert the reader. No hidden messages or attempts to raise our consciousnesses. Sometimes, that's a good thing....more
"M-I-Crooked letter-Crooked letter-I- Crooked letter-Crooked letter-I-Humpback-Humpback-I" was the refrain used in a certain era to teach kids how to"M-I-Crooked letter-Crooked letter-I- Crooked letter-Crooked letter-I-Humpback-Humpback-I" was the refrain used in a certain era to teach kids how to spell Mississippi. Tom Franklin borrows from it to title his book set in the small southeastern Mississippi community of Chabot. The title seems wholly appropriate.
I think that Franklin must have spent some time in such a place when growing up because he has got the description of it word perfect. I grew up in a similar community in northeast Mississippi and I do recognize these people. The group dynamics, the relations between the races, the everyday language of his characters all seem spot on to me.
Franklin's is a Southern Gothic mystery built around two characters, one black and one white. Silas Jones is a black constable in the town. Larry Ott is the town weirdo, known to locals as Scary Larry. But twenty-five years before, these two men's lives were intertwined in a way that will have long-term and long-delayed repercussions for each of them, as well as the community.
Larry got the moniker "Scary Larry" when he was still in high school and he had a date - his one and only one - with a local beauty. She had made the date with him, unbeknownst to Larry, in order to get him to transport her to a meeting with her real boyfriend. Larry never knew who that boyfriend was. But after he delivered her to the meeting place, the girl disappeared. She was never seen or heard from again, and Larry became a "person of interest" in her disappearance.
Larry was the geeky outsider at school. Even before the girl's disappearance, he was bullied, ostracized, and taunted. He never learned the social skills for making friends. Every night, he and his mother prayed together that God would send him just one special friend.
And for a while it seems that God has answered that prayer when Silas and his mother return to the area from Chicago and move into a cabin on the Ott farm. Larry and Silas manage to connect. They play together, explore the woods together, and Larry loans him a rifle and shows him how to shoot it. Still, the friendship has to remain a secret from the parents who would disapprove, and at school, where Silas is a star shortstop on the baseball team, he never acknowledges Larry. He ostracizes him just like everybody else. Truly, the reader's heart aches for both of these boys.
Then the tragedy of the girl's disappearance strikes and Larry becomes even further isolated. As soon as he can, he joins the army where he learns to be a mechanic like his father. Even in the army, he never fits in, and, after serving, he comes home to Chabot to a life of soul-withering isolation in a house full of Steven King and other horror novels.
Reading seems to be his only source of joy. He joins the Book-of-the-Month club and other book clubs and looks forward to the mail deliveries that relieve his boredom. Every day, he gets up and puts on a clean uniform and goes to the auto repair shop that he inherited from his father, but no customers ever come. He isn't welcome at church. He isn't welcome at the local cafe. He has no social contact except with his mother who is now in a nursing home.
Meantime, Silas has made a life for himself in Chabot. He is a respected member of the community. He has friends and a girlfriend whom he cares for and who cares for him, and he is good at his job. But there is a darker side to his life. He carries secrets which gnaw at him and weigh on his conscience.
Then, history repeats itself. The daughter of the richest family in town disappears and Scary Larry again becomes a "person of interest." The gentle weirdo is once again under siege.
As I was reading Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter and my heart was aching for Larry, I kept thinking he reminded me of another character in Southern literature, a genre which certainly contains more than its share of "monsters." Finally, it came to me - Boo Radley! Larry, in the almost complete isolation of his life, reminded me of no one so much as that other gentle weirdo, Boo Radley from To Kill a Mockingbird.
I thought Franklin did a masterful job of slowly peeling the onion, revealing the layers of connectedness between Larry and Silas. We know that these are two damaged souls, but only gradually do we learn just how damaged as the action moves back and forth between the present day and twenty-five years before. The well-crafted tale offers both a historical and psychological study and a window into the darker corners of the mystery of the human soul. One can hardly ask more of a book. ...more
I've been spending a lot of time in Mississippi lately. Last week it was Yoknapatawpha County with William Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom!. This week I'vI've been spending a lot of time in Mississippi lately. Last week it was Yoknapatawpha County with William Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom!. This week I've been in Tibbehah County with Ace Atkins' Quinn Colson. It turns out that the two counties have a lot in common and the main thing they have in common is secrets. Secrets that can wreck lives, destroy families, and sometimes get you killed. The thing is, the "secrets" are often known by everybody in the county!
We met Quinn Colson in Atkins' previous book, The Ranger. He was an army ranger, fresh out of serving in Afghanistan and he had driven over from Fort Benning to attend his uncle's funeral. His uncle had been the sheriff of Tibbehah County and, in this entry, Quinn has followed in his footsteps, being elected sheriff in a special election to fill the post. He has swept the sheriff's department clean, firing most of the staff who had been involved in some corrupt practices. But Lillie Virgil, the tough chief deputy, is still there to give Quinn on-the-job training and watch his back.
Corruption in county government is still a problem that Quinn has to confront, but that has to take a back seat for a while. There are bad things happening in Tibbehah. It starts with a report from the local doctor of injuries to a baby that look like abuse. The investigation of child abuse leads Quinn and his deputies into the sordid world of human trafficking, a bootleg baby racket, and extreme animal abuse. If that isn't enough, there's a Mexican drug cartel making inroads in the area. They've come to purchase guns and it seems that Quinn's boyhood friend, Donnie Varner who runs the local gun shop and shooting range may be involved. Things get even dicier when it looks like the bootleg baby racket, the drug cartel, and the gunrunning may all be intertwined.
(I find it very interesting that the characters Donnie Varner and his father Luther, who owns a store, have the same last name as a family in some of the Faulkner books - The Long, Hot Summer and The Hamlet spring to mind - the patriarch of which owns a store. Coincidence? Unlikely, I think. An homage, perhaps.)
Ace Atkins has a genuine feel for and understanding of small town Mississippi and he portrays his characters with an empathy that helps to make them real for the reader. He's particularly good about emphasizing the role that the military and respect for all things military play in these communities.
In this book, too, we get to know a little more about Quinn and his relationship with his younger sister, Caddy, and their childhood together. Caddy is back in town and trying to walk the straight and narrow for the sake of her son, Jason. This insight into the family relationships helps to humanize Quinn and lets us understand him a bit better.
Atkins has created an interesting world, as rich in its own way as Yoknapatawpha County. I look forward to visiting there again. ...more
Seventy-six-year-old Lawrence Ambrose, a chip off the Truman Capote block, was once a celebrated name in the Southern literary world. But his heyday iSeventy-six-year-old Lawrence Ambrose, a chip off the Truman Capote block, was once a celebrated name in the Southern literary world. But his heyday is long gone and he is mostly forgotten and ignored. All that may change though when his "biography" - actually an autobiography - comes out. He is writing the book but an ex super-star model's name will appear as the author and the word is out that the book will blow the lid off of several well-kept secrets of Ambrose's friends and running mates.
As the year draws to a close, Ambrose invites all his friends and acquaintances, including one Sarah Booth Delaney, to a holiday dinner party where the tension among the guests is thick enough to be sliced by a knife. As it turns out though, it is the host who gets sliced. Sarah Booth finds him stone cold dead in a pool of blood the morning after the party. Moreover, it seems that the much-dreaded manuscript for Ambrose's tell-all book is missing.
Soon, the woman who had loved Lawrence Ambrose for many years hires Sarah Booth to find out what happened. Specifically, she hires her to prove that the bitchy ex-model killed him.
As Sarah Booth begins her snooping - er, investigation of the case, she finds that many of the people who might have had answers to the questions that keep popping up are dead and, mostly, have been dead for many years. Will she ever be able to solve the mystery(ies), find the manuscript, and, most importantly, will she be able to earn her way as a private investigator in the little Delta town of Zinnia, Mississippi?
Meanwhile, as Sarah Booth is pursuing her lines of inquiry, Jitty, the antebellum ghost with whom she shares her family home, Dahlia House, is pursuing her single-minded obsession of getting Sarah Booth safely married and impregnated so that the Delaney bloodline is secure. Unfortunately, her task looks even more hopeless than that of Sarah Booth becoming a competent and successful PI.
This series is a bit of a light-hearted romp and it is fun to read, but I am one of those readers who can be distracted and irritated by little things. Things like rechristening the home of William Faulkner as Rowan Oaks. It's Rowan Oak, singular. And then there's Sarah Booth's hound which figures prominently in this story. The dog is repeatedly described as a red tic hound. I kept imagining a big red dog with a nervous twitch. There are Red Tick(or Redtick) hounds and Blue Tick (or Bluetick) hounds, but, as far as I know, there are no red tic hounds. An editing problem maybe, but an annoying one. ...more
I feel that I should put this book in the category of guilty pleasures. I know in my heart that it is not the kind of book that a woman about to celebI feel that I should put this book in the category of guilty pleasures. I know in my heart that it is not the kind of book that a woman about to celebrate her mumble-mumble birthday should be spending her time reading, and, yet, frankly, it was a joy to read! Sort of a Fifty Shades of Grey without all that nasty BDSM. There was a bit of hot and heavy sex but it was more alluded to than explicit, which is only proper in a story about a genteelly-bred Southern woman.
Sarah Booth Delaney of Zinnia, Mississippi is not your stereotypical Southern belle though. She is over thirty, unemployed, and - horror of horrors! - unwed. She lives in her ancestral home, Dahlia House, in the Mississippi Delta. It is an ante bellum structure that has sheltered many generations of Delaneys, but now Sarah Booth is flat broke with no prospects of getting any money and she's about to lose her home, just when she's begun to understand how much she loves it.
But Sarah Booth isn't alone in the ancestral home. Jitty, the hundred-and-fifty-year-old ghost of her great-great-grandmother's nanny, inhabits the structure as well, and Jitty is one determined ghost! Mostly, she is determined that all of her hundred and fifty years with the Delaney family will not have been in vain and that Sarah Booth will not be allowed to lose her - and Jitty's - family home.
Jitty suggests a course of action which sets Sarah Booth on the road to some very unladylike behavior and finally gets her involved in investigating two violent deaths that occurred twenty years before. Both deaths were called accidents at the time they occurred, but Sarah Booth is not so sure. And when the gorgeous and sexy son of the two dead people unexpectedly returns to Zinnia from Europe where he's lived all these years, Sarah Booth becomes more convinced than ever.
Then one of the people she had interviewed in her investigation turns up murdered and she is accused of the murder. In order to extricate herself, she must solve the puzzle of those long-ago murders. And just like that, Sarah Booth Delaney is launched on her new career as a private investigator. Maybe it will be lucrative enough to save the family manse - if only she can stay alive.
This is the first in a series and it is an excellent introduction to the main characters. The book is written with a light touch and a lot of humor. Sarah Booth and Jitty are delightful characters. Sarah Booth is the kind of person that a woman would be lucky to call her best friend. As for Jitty, well, I'd love to have a ghost like her inhabiting my house. ...more