Monday, February 12, 2007

Guess Who's Coming to Die - Patricia Sprinkle


Guess Who’s Coming to Die?
A Thoroughly Southern Mystery
Patricia Sprinkle
Signet

Mystery/Cozy

At sixty-something, MacLaren (Mac) Yarbrough is the sitting magistrate of her small hometown of Hopemore, Georgia. In small towns like this, the magistrate is pretty much a part-time job, so Mac also owns and runs Yarbrough Feed, Seed, and Nursery, along with her husband of forty years. Upon returning from an eventful trip (detailed in a previous novel) she finds an invitation on her desk. To her amazement, it’s an invitation to join the Magnolia Ladies’ Investment Club. Everyone knows that the club is limited to the “ten most influential women” in Hopewell. In other words, the ten most wealthy. Apparently, a recently deceased member requested that Mac be given her spot.

Not at all sure about the prospect, Mac attends a meeting. The members run the gamut from the merely idle rich, of whom there are several in this small town, to a real estate broker, a lawyer for the Poverty Law Center, and even a former actress. In this meeting, Willena Kenan steps down as president to make way for her cousin, Wilma. Wilma presents her cousin with a sterling silver bar set. After a presentation by Augusta broker (and Willena’s new beau) Grover Henderson, the group breaks for refreshments. When Mac tries to enter the rest room, she’s greeting with the sight of Willena, dead on the floor, a sterling silver corkscrew protruding from her throat.

Everyone is a suspect, since the ladies were milling around, going outside to make phone calls or smoke. Things look especially bad for Cindy, Mac’s daughter-in-law, though. The police found her car keys under Willena’s body. And it’s not exactly a secret that Willena and Cindy, who are both part of many of the same organizations, never really saw eye to eye. Mac knows that Cindy is innocent. The corkscrew came from Wilma, who was clearly enamored of her cousin’s new love. As Mac knows, even in a small town, some secrets run deep; but if you dig enough, you can usually bring them to light.

While this is part of a series, newcomers (like me) will have no problem jumping in at this point. Mac makes reference to other cases, and the author is kind enough to identify the appropriate books via footnotes; a nice touch, indeed. Mac is instantly likeable; a southern lady, she’s also a magistrate and looks at events with a clear eye. The cast of characters is varied, and they’re all completely believable. There are no goofy southern caricatures here. The characters and story will engage the reader immediately, making it a pleasure to follow Mac as she uncovers the real culprit. This was my first visit to Hopemore, but it certainly won’t be my last.

Rating: 7 ½
February 2007
ISBN# 978-0-451-22061-5 (paperback)

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