|Carolyn Haines: Hallowed Bones|
Delacorte Press (Hardcover), ISBN 0-385-33778-7
Carolyn Haines's calls upon her Mississippi roots, adds quirky characters and incorporates her fondness for tension and suspense in this puzzling and humorous YaYa-Sisterhood-meets-the-Steel-Magnolias mystery series.
Like a crawfish, the book peels back to disclose a meaty plot that reflects the past, present and future of private investigator Sarah Booth Delaney, her current case, and events that shape not only the old South but also current culture. The writing plumbs the depths of history, emotions and relationships with an eloquence that skirts close to melodrama. Haines sets the tone with her first sentence: "When the brisk winds of October skim over the drying bolls of cotton, I find myself caught in the web of time." Then the author lightens the mood with a ghost's observation, "The blues, unless you're singin' 'em, are a total waste of time…"
Southern belle Sarah Booth Delaney fights the Delaney womb (her biological clock ticks, ticks, ticks) while Jitty, an old family servant who rooms with her in the family mansion, crosses over from the dead wearing thematically appropriate fashions and spouting ghostly admonitions. Sarah Booth's two friends, Tinkie and CeCe, offer flesh and blood advice usually about Sarah Booth's love interests: Coleman Peters and Hamilton Garrett V. And for the animal lover, the author includes a horse, and a sunglass- and scarf- wearing hound, Sweetie Pie.
In this fifth installment of the series, Sarah Booth travels to New Orleans from her family plantation in rural Mississippi to prove healer and miracle worker, Doreen Mallory, innocent of murdering her deformed infant daughter. The first job of a PI involves finding another suspect for the crime. In the case of infanticide the father looks like a viable suspect. But complications multiply when Sarah Booth must cull him from a trio of wealthy, high profile possibilities. While in the Big Easy, she indulges in beignets and café-au-lait, kicks up her heels at the Black and Orange Ball, and enjoys a steamy romance with an old flame.
The novel offers an intriguing trail of clues and an abundance of fundamental religious zealots with their hype about healing, miracles and faith. The author throws readers a knuckle ball with a late breaking plot twist, yet the astute reader will see it coming.
Those new to the series might want to check out book one, Them Bones, first, for a better understanding of the history that the characters share and build upon in each subsequent installment.
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