Wednesday, August 7, 2019


Do you ever start a mystery series and it takes you years to complete it? Or, if the series is on-going, it takes you years to catch up with the latest release? Too many books, two little time? Or is it the other way around?

Either way...

I also find myself starting new (usually exciting) mystery series each year. I also find myself juggling too many series each year. Then I find myself losing sight of one or two series each year–in favor of a new love. And, hell, each year I’m spending more money on books instead of reading what I already got! (Or that's speculation and not fact–I'll have to check my wallet.) So with all that in the air, there comes a season of buckling down and finishing what one has started ages ago. And that season is now.

So with that all in mind... here's my latest focus...

I must finish the last two books in Barbara Neely’s Blanche White series. As well, I have to finish the final book in Nora DeLoach's Mama series. Both series written by black women mystery writers. Both carrying respective protagonists sharing her unique crime-stopping traversals through the genre. I began both series years ago, and have been collecting/reading entries in each series off and on for too long. Until now–this week.

"Understanding houses was part of how she [Blanche White] made her living. Just like a good surgeon didn't open up a patient without an examination, she didn't clean or cook in a house until she'd done the same. She couldn't remember when she'd first understood how much houses had to say about themselves, but it was information she'd come to depend upon." ~ Blanche Cleans Up
The first (full) week of August I'll complete Barbara Neely’s Blanche White series. Blanche is a black domestic cleaner who gets all the dirt on her employers, while addressing observations on race and social class issues. Tack on a murder mystery, and you got an amazing four-book mystery series on your hand. As of this writing I've already finished book three, Blanche Cleans Up (highly recommended, people!). I just couldn't put it down! Currently I'm halfway through the fourth and final book, Blanche Passes Go. Neely is using the fourth book to wrap up many of the arcs and story threads presented way back in the first book, Blanche on the Lam. With that in mind, reading this series in order is recommended. Or else you'll be a touch lost in the fourth book.

All in all, the series is really insightful and humorous. And it's grades above in this genre of mystery for the race and class commentary Neely slides throughout each book. Heck, she even tackles LGBTQ issues. As well as the topic of religion, education, colorism, teen pregnancy, domestic violence, and immigration. The list goes on, baby. No, for real; Neely is a force that should be acknowledged and recognized frequently among writers of all colors in this genre.

Nevertheless, I haven’t read a Blanche White book since early 2016 and, I have to say, I’m going to miss her crazy ass. I suppose it has taken me so long to compete this four-book series because I never wanted to let Blanche go. I mean seriously, we only have four books in this series! But, alas, it’s time to see Blanche's story to completion.

"My mama's name is Grace.  Everybody calls her 'Candi,' like candied sweet potatoes, because of her skin, a golden brown color with yellow undertones that looks as smooth as silk.  I think Mama's great beauty is in her eyes.  They are oval and clear, and the blacks and whites are pure and separate.  Mama weighs about 140 pounds.  She exudes a sweetness and warmth that touches something deep inside most people." ~ Mama Solves a Murder
I remember discovering Nora DeLoach years ago while sifting through my mom’s stash of boxed books. It was in one of those boxes (I wish she would buy a bookshelf) where I uncovered book number six in DeLoach's Mama series, Mama Rocks the Empty Cradle. Both the series and author were new to me, but the cover alone instantly screamed "MYSTERY". Which, naturally, sent my reader's brain buzzing. I think I barely glimpsed the synopsis before I asked my mom could I have the book. Not borrow the book (I play no games). But have it. I don't think I even asked had she read it or not.

Yet, because I can’t read a series out of order, I first ordered the previous entries. Then proceeded to spend the next eight years buying entries, and running in and out of reading this eight-books series.

(SIDE FACT: I discovered Valerie Wilson Wesley after going through my aunt's books. There were no games played there either.)

Anyway, the Mama series features a crime-solving duo involving an older black woman named Candi, as well as her Atlanta-based attorney daughter, Simone. While the mysteries themselves are hit and miss on the range of too convoluted, the pleasure with this series is how the books are a unique southern black American twist on the English village mystery. The Mama series is a series I've dubbed "soul food" reads. And I most certainly don't mean that in a negative sense. They are comfort reads. Especially for someone who is familiar with the southern black American tone and setting DeLoach delivers book after book. And, frankly, there isn't a lot of that in this genre.

So last year I finally read the seventh book, Mama Pursues Murderous Shadows. And now I’m ready to read the eighth and final book in the series, Mama Cracks a Mask of Innocence. Though it is going to hurt me to finally finish reading the Mama series, it's time to see her story to completion.

Color me sad, but I have two other series by black women mystery writers/series I’m focusing on next week. This is my absolutely favorite land of reading. So, needless to say, I'm pretty darn excited for this mini project this month!

My "LET'S GET IT IN" attitude be like...


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