Biggie and the Meddlesome Mailman
Martin's Minotaur (Hardcover), ISBN 0312208804
What does hunger have to do with a murder mystery, you ask? I see your point. I've often read mysteries in which the graphic forensic details actually turned my stomach. This book produces quite a different problem. I couldn't pick up the book without drooling. Every other page described a kitchen table laden with delicious, mouthwatering southern dishes that would tempt even the skinniest super model to eat like Miss Piggy.
The cook proves to be not only talented, but tireless as well. I didn't even recognize some of the dishes, and I still reached for a granola bar between chapters - not that a granola bar could satisfy me while I was reading about skillet cornbread, fried chicken and homemade canned peaches. Did you know that Texans eat dessert at breakfast, lunch and dinner? If you didn't, you obviously never met Biggie.
However, Biggie and the Meddlesome Mailman is not entirely about food. The story unfolds through the eyes of a lively and inquisitive 12-year-old boy named J.R., who lives in the small Texas town of Job's Crossing with his fiesty grandmother, Biggie Weatherford.
Women like Biggie are a dying breed. She manages to solve local mysteries between canning whatever is in season and hosting teas for the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. She maintains her charming Old South composure under any circumstance -- whether it be discovering a dead body or flirting with the local Ranger. She'd look equally comfortable in white gloves or a jogging suit. But I digress.
It seems that Luther Abernathy, the town's one and only mailman, wagged his tongue too much for his own good. Luther possesses an extensive knowledge of town gossip and takes a deep, personal interest in every piece of mail that he delivers. Big Brother has nothing on this guy. The mystery begins when Biggie and J.R. find him dead in his mail truck on a hot road.
Biggie and the Meddlesome Mailman doesn't unravel clue by clue like a traditional mystery. Instead, Nancy Bell sets about telling the story of Biggie and J.R. and the characters and activities that comprise life in a small town. I suspect that the author's primary purpose was to tell a story about this town and its residents. The mystery seems almost incidental.
Bell shows her readers that small town life contains everything they've been lead to believe -- and more. The people of small towns are more interesting, more open-minded, and more intelligent than contemporary society portrays them. At the same time, the author includes individuals with idiosyncrasies and eccentricities that I happen to know do exist in small Southern towns, almost without exception. It felt like going home. I enjoyed the trip and would willingly return to Job's Crossing anytime - especially for lunch.
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