Wednesday, November 28, 2018

CHOP IT UP: Them Bones by Carolyn Haines

"No self-respecting lady would allow herself to end up in Sarah Booth's situation. Unwed, unemployed, and over thirty, she's flat broke and about to lose the family plantation. Not to mention being haunted by the ghost of her great-great-grandmother's nanny, who never misses an opportunity to remind her of her sorry state--or to suggest a plan of action, like ransoming her friend's prize pooch to raise some cash.
But soon Sarah Booth's walk on the criminal side leads her deeper into unladylike territory, and she's hired to solve a murder. Did gorgeous, landed Hamilton Garrett V really kill his mother twenty years ago? And if so, what is Sarah Booth doing falling for this possible murderer? When she asks one too many questions and a new corpse turns up, she is suddenly a suspect herself...and Sarah Booth finds that digging up the bones of the past could leave her rolling over in her grave."

This.  Book.  Was.  Hard to put down.  Really, this buster was hard to let go of once I got started.  It was nothing like I'd anticipated when I initially picked it up at my public library used bookstore.  The Mississippi setting, I wanted. A poor and single and interestingly unconventional Southern Belle playing detective, delivered me. Old family murders to uncover, I needed. Good ole boy threats, a plus. But an actual and active ghost communicating with the protagonist in a blase fashion took me completely off guard.  And it was soooo good. 

The book came loaded with charm (Southern and otherwise).  But it also did an excellent job of balancing a humorous tone alongside a dark tone.  And while some of the characters' (you can throw scenes in there as well) actions and behaviors came across as ridiculous at times, each step cleverly served the overall story. 

This book sets itself apart from many other cozies because of the author's confidence and trust in the readers.  She's confident in her story and characters, and doesn't force either of the two to be likable.  They just... are.  I say that because many cozies carry this aura where the author works overtime to make him/her character(s) likable and engaging to the reader–to the point of force and fakeness.  Example: like that tired old cliche of the eccentric, outspoken and overshadowing granny sidekick decked out in John Lennon hippie shades with an attitude and pistol in her purse.  Don't get me wrong, that is here.  But it never felt like a forced or domineering cliche.

Nevertheless, as for Haine's trust in readers, she allows us to get and follow the quirkiness of the book without having to explain herself.  Why?  Because everything comes out by the book's end.  

For the sake of sounding hyperbolic, Them Bones was the shit.  Not perfect, as the ending/resolution tickled one of my mystery-reading pet peeves. Still it has been a minute since I've forfeited doing laundry because of a book.

Glad I'd already bought the second book.

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