Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Leftover Dead - Jimmie Ruth Evans

Leftover Dead
A Trailer Park Mystery
Jimmie Ruth Evans
Berkley Prime Crime


Wanda Nell Culpepper, a waitress at the Kountry Kitchen, is still happily surprised by the fact that she’s been married for six weeks to Jack Pemberton. In addition to teaching, Jack has written a couple of moderately successful true crime books, and he’s looking for another subject. People in small towns have long memories, and the school janitor tells Jack about the dead girl found on the football field thirty-one years ago. It was clearly a murder, and she was never identified. According to the janitor, it was a big deal for about a week, then, nothing. Anyone who has lived in a small town knows that something like that would have been grist for the mill for months, if not years. It looks like maybe someone wanted to cover up the details.

Looking for more information, Jack and Wanda Nell go to see Elmer Lee, the sheriff. He digs out the original file. The file consists of two pieces of paper. Clearly, some long ago person removed information from the file. Whatever reason that person had, it’s not good enough for Elmer Lee, and he vows to look into it himself. That won’t stop Jack and Wanda Nell, of course, but as they continue with their attempts to uncover information, it becomes very clear that someone is desperate to keep the secrets of the past.

After a certain number of installments in a series, it must be difficult to come up with new plotlines yet retain a sense of realism about the core characters. (I always wondered why Jessica Fletcher had any friends at all, since people around her seemed to drop dead with distressing regularity.) But Ms. Evans is definitely up to the task. By placing the actual murder in the past, she opens up all kinds of fascinating possibilities and can bring in various characters from the past.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of this series (MURDER OVER EASY, BEST SERVED COLD, BRING YOUR OWN POISON) is that the characters act and react like normal people. They change, and form different opinions and relationships from book to book. Nowhere is this more apparent than the fact that Elmer Lee and Wanda Nell are now able to ‘share’ in an investigation. There’s a real charm to this series that’s based in the realistic characters. This may be the best of the series, so far.

Rating: 7 ½
January 2008
ISBN# 978-0-425-22560-8 (paperback)


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