Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Great characters and plenty of conflict to the mystery
Cons; Ending lets the book down
The Bottom Line:
These refined ladies
Face an unpleasant murder
Start of new series
Southern Hospitality Leads to Murder
Spin offs are so common on TV that we think nothing of it. However, they aren’t that common in books. It’s exactly what we have with Bless Her Dead Little Heart, the first in the Southern Ladies Mysteries by Miranda James. Set in the same town as the author’s popular Cat in the Stacks Mysteries, it features that Cat, Diesel, and two characters introduced in one of those books. While I must admit I’ve only read the first book of the earlier series (so far), I had no problem enjoying this book all on its own.
It’s a quiet afternoon for Miss An’gel Ducote and Miss Dickce Ducote when their old college friend Rosabelle arrives. They haven’t seen her for years, but it is quickly obvious that she is still the selfish drama queen they remember when she quickly says that she fled from California to their home in Athena, Mississippi, because someone is trying to kill her. The two sisters agree to let her stay and try to help in any way they can.
However, they don’t expect the invasion of Rosabelle’s relatives who arrive on their doorstep within the hour. They bring plenty more drama with them before someone turns up dead, the result of a tragic accident. Except it quickly begins to look like it was actually murder. With a houseful of suspects, are An’gel and Dickce in danger? Or will they be able to catch the killer before he or she strikes again?
As I read this book, I couldn’t help but think of classic Agatha Christie. While the characters aren’t stranded, almost all the actions takes place at the Ducote Sister’s home on the outskirts of town. There’s no way the killer could be anyone other than someone staying at the house. And no one seems to get along with anyone else. It’s a plot that worked well for Christie in so many of her books, and it works well again here.
I was a little concerned going into this book since this wasn’t the first time the characters had been introduced. I need not have worried. Anything we needed to know about the characters was explained, and this really works for a first book in a series. I never once felt lost. It helps that almost every character in the book is a suspect, and all of them are very strong. There’s actually quite a large cast, but I never had trouble keeping them straight.
The plot starts quickly and never lets up. There are some good clues and twists along the way, but the conflict between the characters is always bubbling just below the surface, and the frequent eruptions kept me engaged as well. It was always a pleasure when I could escape into these pages.
Unfortunately, I found the climax of the book rather anti-climactic. Don’t misunderstand, the killer is identified and the various threads are all wrapped up. However, I felt like it was rushed and should have been more dramatic. I’m afraid of spoiling things if I say any more, but I’m sure when you read it, you’ll understand what I’m saying.
This is the second time this month that I’ve run across a cozy told in multiple point of view. An’gel and Dickce take turns being our third person narrator. The switches are always easy to follow, and we get to see a bit more of the story that way. We also get an insight into the character of the old south where decorum, hospitality, and saving face is the goal of life. It provides an interesting backdrop to the action, and one I really enjoyed. It also helped contribute to the Agatha Christie feeling I mentioned earlier.
I’m reminded once again I really need to get to the rest of Miranda James’s books, but at least I’m up to date on one series. If you are new to this author and want to try a book, Bless Her Dead Little Heart is a great place to jump in.