4 of 5 stars to Miranda James‘s Bless Her Dead Little Heart, the first in a new “Southern Ladies” mystery series. I chose this book because I enjoy the author’s (Dean James) other series, “Cat in the Stacks,” which also takes place in Athena, Mississippi and includes Diesel, the Maine Coon cat. It was a little shaky at first, but then the characters took off and I ultimately enjoyed this book. On to the review…
Charlie Harris of the “Cat in the Stack” series drops his Maine Coon cat off with his friends/neighbors, Dickce and An’gel Ducote, while he takes off on a trip. Dickce and An’gel are 79 and 84 years old, from old money, and have a strong connection to the antebellum south. When a former sorority sister, Rosebelle Sultan, shows up claiming her family is trying to kill her, the Ducote sisters know they will have a problem to deal with, especially given all the troubles Rosebelle has caused over the 60 years they’ve known her. And this time, it’s the truth. Her two daughters, son and a boatload of in-laws and grandchildren show up after Rosebelle and the Ducote sisters feel their southern hospitality calling on them. Soon after, Sultan family members start dying under mysterious circumstances and the Ducote sisters need to call Deputy Kanesha Berry (also of the Cat in the Stacks series) for help. Both sisters survive the ordeal, but their life is about to change given the impacts of who is killed and the mess that is left behind.
1. You’ve got this fantastically crazy Sultan family full of characters you want to love and hate all at the same time. There is a reason for it to be any of them, and each stand to inherit money depending on who kicks the bucket first. A great mystery for the mind.
2. A true southern appeal… without overdoing it. Lots of antebellum charm, language and setting without getting caught up in accents and unknown cultural themes. A perfect balance of fun.
3. The author knows how to drag you into the mystery, laughing and smiling the whole time. It’s not a typical suspense page-turner, but you often find yourself wanting to read it all in one sitting just to figure out whodunit.
1. It may be too early to say this, but I’m not sure you need both sisters. I sort of grouped them together and assumed they were the same person, except when they were separated and in different scenes. It’s hard to keep them separate when both are unmarried and have no children and we know little about their former lives. I think we need stronger personalities to be able to see enough of a difference.
2. They are spry for 80, but how long will they be able to keep this up! And who really lets nearly 10 uninvited guests just stay at the house to help a friend. LOL I laughed it off but I hope the rest of the series has a little less “on the nose” humor and more “accidental” humor! Still was fun, just mentioning some potential concerns with a longer series.
A good read, worth taking a chance on if you like cozy mysteries, older protagonists, less crime detection and more subtle relationship building and conversational stories.