Elvis and the Grateful Dead (Southern Cousins Series #2)

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Overview

Every year, a hip-shaking herd of Elvis impersonators descends upon the King's birthplace of Tupelo, Mississippi, for the annual Elvis festival. Usually the main attractions are lot of sequined jumpsuits and even more off-key singing, but this year something much more deadly has the town all shook up…

When the first Elvis impersonator is found slumped over his piano, a heart attack seems the likely suspect. But when a second keels over mid-swagger at Callie Valentine Jones's ...

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Overview

Every year, a hip-shaking herd of Elvis impersonators descends upon the King's birthplace of Tupelo, Mississippi, for the annual Elvis festival. Usually the main attractions are lot of sequined jumpsuits and even more off-key singing, but this year something much more deadly has the town all shook up…

When the first Elvis impersonator is found slumped over his piano, a heart attack seems the likely suspect. But when a second keels over mid-swagger at Callie Valentine Jones's party, suspicious minds begin to wonder if something foul is afoot. Because everyone knows two dead Elvis impersonators add up to only one thing: murder.

As it turns out, Callie's cousin Lovie-a 190-pound bombshell who's had more lovers than the King had hit records-turns out to be suspect #1. Callie knows she's innocent but to prove it, she and Lovie will have to find out who the real killer is. Could it be Texas Elvis, who's sworn to out-swivel his rivals? Maybe the female Elvis from Australia, with the fake sideburns? Or one of the endlessly bickering officers of the fan club?

It's a mystery fit for a King, and with a little help from Callie's hunk-a-burnin' love ex Jack, and her talented hound dog Elvis-who's convinced he's the true reincarnation of the King-Callie and Lovie are determined to have the killer singing Jailhouse Rock. But they need to move fast and be ready for the killer's next move, because their chance may be now…or never!

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Webb's slap-happy second Southern Cousins mystery featuring Elvis Presley reincarnated as a basset hound (after 2008's Elvis and the Dearly Departed) is as corny as all get-out, but Elvis fans are in for a treat. Hair-stylist Callie Valentine Jones and Lovie, her best friend and caterer, are each doing their bit for the annual Elvis Festival in the king's hometown of Tupelo, Miss. A highlight of the festival is the rockin' Elvis impersonator competition. Alas, when the impersonators start dropping dead, all poisoned by peach tea, Lovie becomes the prime suspect. Elvis the hound dog sniffs for clues as Callie and Lovie slip into detective mode. Meanwhile, Jack Jones, Callie's husband from whom she's almost divorced, and amorous vet Luke Champion vie for Callie's heart—and Elvis, who shares narrative duty with Callie in this comic crime caper, worries which dog “parent” will win custody of him if their divorce ever becomes final. (Oct.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780758225917
  • Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corporation
  • Publication date: 10/1/2009
  • Series: Southern Cousins Series , #2
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Read an Excerpt

ELVIS and the Grateful Dead


By Peggy Webb

KENSINGTON BOOKS

Copyright © 2009 Peggy Webb
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-7582-2592-4


Chapter One

Hair Gel, Flat Notes, and the Rockabilly Corpse

Here comes Elvis looking so cute I don't have the heart to chastise him for slipping his leash.

"There you are, boy." I secure his leash and tighten the collar a notch, then give him some extra petting so he won't get miffed.

Not many people can say they're where they are because of a dog. But let me tell you, if it weren't for Elvis I'd be a free woman sitting on a beach somewhere with a man who has daddy potential. By the time I settle my dog-custody battle with Jack Jones, my eggs are going to be on life support.

But I'm not about to give up Elvis, even if he is the reason I'm legally tied to a man who went out to buy a baby cradle and came back with a Harley. If Jack thinks he can deprive me of progeny and have my dog, too, he has another think coming. I'd as soon give up Mama.

Elvis is part of my family. And family is the reason I'm dispensing hair gel and pompadours from a tent in a corner of the blocked-off section of downtown Tupelo instead of shoring up my finances at Hair.Net (my little beauty shop in Mooreville, population six hundred and fifty-and a half since Fayrene's niece got pregnant).

Uncle Charlie is on the Elvis Festival Committee. When he said we should all do our civic duty and help out with this year's festival, it might as well have been an edict from God. Not only does Uncle Charlie own and manage the most popular funeral home in northeast Mississippi (Eternal Rest), but he manages to keep the entire Valentine family sane (barely) and out of trouble (mostly). We think he walks on water.

As for my dog, Elvis considers it his birthright to be on display at the annual Elvis Festival. When I mentioned I might leave him home so he could use the doggie door to get inside and stay cool, he chewed the laces off my Reeboks, then deliberately heisted his leg on my prize petunias.

He's sporting his pink bow tie. Personally, I can see why my dog thinks he's Mississippi's most famous son reincarnated. The way he's swaggering while Brian Watson belts out "Don't Be Cruel," you can almost see the swivel-hipped King himself.

Brian has a hitch in his swivel. Elvis trots to the tent opening and shoots him a disdainful look before ambling over to sit at my feet. I bend down to scratch his ears.

"Are you about ready for the tour of the Birthplace, boy? Promise you won't go running off again." I take his grin as a yes. I swear my dog looks human when he smiles.

Brian is the last of today's competitors vying for tribute artist fame. As soon as the new American Idol winner takes the stage, Lovie and I will escort the impersonators on a tour of the famous Birthplace in east Tupelo.

I'm getting ready to shut down my on-site beauty salon when Lovie strolls in, hands me a glass of iced peach tea, and plops in front of the makeup mirror.

"If Brian's notes get any flatter, I may have to join Aunt Ruby Nell in a five o'clock toddy."

Mama always says a little libation is good for the spirit, and I guess she's right because she's one of the liveliest spirits I know.

"Pretty me up, Callie. Rocky's going to call."

"He can't see you over the telephone."

"If I feel sexy, I talk sexy. Work your magic."

I grab a comb and set to work.

Rocky Malone is her current heartthrob, and from the looks of things, her last. Thanks to the teddy-bear charm of the man we thought wanted to kill us over the Bubbles Malone caper, Lovie's likely to marry and end up in Las Vegas. Then what will I do?

I know, I know. This sounds selfish. But Lovie's not only my first cousin, she's also my best friend, my confidant, and my cohort in crime. (Thank goodness, I'm not a criminal, but if you had been with us when we tried to steal a corpse and haul it across the desert in ninety-degree heat, you'd know what I'm talking about.)

I put the finishing touch on Lovie's flaming red mane. "What's Mama doing with a five o'clock toddy? It's only three."

"When has reason ever applied to Aunt Ruby Nell? She said she wanted to be ready for your party tonight."

Mama's farm in Mooreville is only a fifteen-minute drive from Tupelo and I know it doesn't take her four hours to get ready for a party. Something else is afoot. I just hope it doesn't involve Fayrene's back room at Gas, Grits, and Guts (Mooreville's one and only convenience store) and that jar of quarters Fayrene keeps on the table.

For the Coke machine, is what Mama always says, but don't let my cute shoes fool you; I'm nobody's dummy. I've seen the deck of cards Fayrene keeps stashed behind the Sweet N Low.

I don't have time to worry about such things because Jack Jones comes strolling in looking like something you'd want to eat with a spoon. I'm learning to resist. With my almost-ex, you always bite off more than you can chew.

"I was just passing through and thought I'd take Elvis off your hands."

Passing through, my foot. Jack was spying. Ever since we separated I can't go to the grocery store without discovering him lurking behind the Charmin. And believe me, it's not toilet tissue he's planning to squeeze.

"Whatever happened to hello?"

Major mistake. Jack stalks across the tent, pulls me hard against his chest, and kisses me senseless. Or at least, addled.

"Hello, Callie." He winks at Lovie.

I try to act like I don't want to take him to Reed's Department Store and pick out Egyptian cotton sheets and new dishes, but with my cheeks on fire that's hard to do.

"If you'll care to remember, Elvis has a particular love of this festival. Why don't you do us both a favor and get lost in a Brazilian jungle?"

"Then who would keep your cute buns out of trouble?"

"I would. That's who."

He walks out, laughing. I want to bop him with my blow-dryer.

"Of all the nerve. I ought to ... to date."

"Why don't you?" Lovie's not asking a question; she's issuing a challenge.

"Because ..." Jack still makes me want to cook gingerbread, wear his favorite perfume, and wash his socks. And that's the least of it. If I don't get him out of my head soon, I might as well sign up to announce my cracked-to-pieces love life on the Dr. Phil show. "Maybe I will date."

"Good." Lovie stands up and hugs me. "Let's get this tour over with so I can go home and get a chocolate fix. Beulah Jane Ball is driving me crazy."

"Shush, Lovie. Here she comes."

In her daisy print dress and sturdy support stockings, Beulah Jane looks like a little grandmother who's too timid to share her cookie recipe. Her appearance is misleading to say the least. She could run China. As president of the local Elvis Presley fan club, she's not only lording over the refreshment booth-which everybody knows is managed by Lovie-but also trying to run the whole show.

"Callie, Lovie, hurry along now. The tour bus is waiting." Beulah Jane shoos us out of the tent with a cardboard fan on a stick featuring the King as a shy, skinny boy on the cusp of fame. When she sees Elvis, she gives a little mock horror screech. "That dog's not coming, is he?"

"Yes. He's with me." I grab Elvis and board the bus behind Lovie. Furthermore, we take a front seat. Uncle Charlie put us in charge of this tour, and I'm not about to let Beulah Jane take over.

She clambers in behind us, along with the club's other top-ranking officers, Tewanda Hardy and Clytee Estes. Tewanda pauses beside us, pats her tight curls, glares at Elvis over the top of her wire-rim glasses, and sniffs. "Lord have mercy. Gladys Presley would roll over in her grave."

I guess it's her tacky hairdo that makes Tewanda so mean. Whoever put that blue rinse on her gray hair and then wound it on little bitty perm rods ought to be shot.

Instead of passing along some styling advice, I mind my own business (a point of pride with me considering I run the kind of shop that makes my clients feel free to talk). Sitting back, I watch the impersonators board. The first is Brian Watson, a waiter at the Longhorn Steak House in Huntsville, Alabama, who looks the part but lacks the pipes. Next is Dick Gerard, a postman and local celebrity who rose to impersonator fame at the Tupelo Luncheon Civitan Club when he ate too much fried chicken and split the seat right out of his tight pink jumpsuit.

The third contest hopeful to board is a woman. From Australia, of all places. Elisha Stevens, though she prefers to be called Eli. Her black slick-backed hair is real. I know because I styled it. Her imitation of the King is on target, too. Only her sideburns and her southern accent are fake.

Behind her are the tribute artists from Japan and Italy, who both wanted to take me out to dinner. If Jack Jones keeps acting like the guardian from you-know-where, I might just say yes. To both of them.

Right now, though, I have a civic duty to perform. After the last contestant boards, Beulah Jane, Tewanda, and Clytee pass around cookies and peach tea. I tap the driver on the shoulder, and we set off down Main Street on the first leg of our Elvis pilgrimage.

Picking up the bus' microphone, I start my spiel. "On the left you'll see Tupelo Hardware Store where Gladys took her son to buy a present for his tenth birthday. He wanted a bicycle, but she couldn't afford that. His second choice was a BB gun, but Gladys didn't believe in weapons, so Elvis Presley ended up with his first guitar."

When Beulah Jane pops up and says, "Tell the price," Lovie grabs the microphone and says, "She was getting to that."

Holy cow. If I don't get these two separated, we're going to make festival history. I can see the headlines now. Fan Club President Beat to Death with Baseball Bat. Lovie's weapon of choice.

Not that she could get it in her purse, but with Lovie, you never know. Her rainbow-colored peasant skirt is big enough to slipcover Texas. She might have the bat strapped to her leg.

To top it off, Elvis, who's nosing around scavenging for cookie crumbs, is eyeing Beulah Jane's Easy Spirits with wicked intent. I wouldn't be caught dead in those shoes, but I don't want my dog peeing on them. Whipping a Pup-Peroni stick out of my purse, I say, "Come here, boy."

Food always brings him running. With my dog safely stowed, I point out City Hall with its dancing water fountain, built on the old Mississippi/ Alabama fairgrounds, which was the site of Elvis' famous 1956 homecoming concert.

"Elvis left Tupelo a thirteen-year-old kid from the wrong side of the tracks without much future and returned a recording star with a parade in his honor," I tell the busload of impersonators, who swivel to look at the old fairgrounds. "Every high school marching band played Elvis songs; the local merchants had Elvis displays in the window, and the Rex Plaza served up Love Me Tender Steak, Hound Dogs with Sauerkraut, Rock 'N' Roll Stew, and Oobie Doobie Cake with Tutti-Frutti Sauce."

Everybody swivels to look at the dancing waters. Even Beulah Jane is mollified, though her satisfaction would be short-lived if she knew Elvis was still pointing her shoes.

The minute we get to the Birthplace, I'm putting him on a leash ... and buying chocolate to calm Lovie.

* * *

With impersonators swarming all over the gift shop, the museum, the chapel, and the shotgun house where the King was born, Lovie and I are sitting beside the fountain taking a breather and eating Hershey's bars.

"I know this is going straight to my hips." Lovie pats her ample thighs. "Fortunately Rocky likes his women round."

"I wish it would go to mine." I look like a swizzle stick. Especially beside Lovie. And especially since Jack left and my appetite went down the drain. All arms and coltish-looking legs and big brown eyes. Chest flat as a flitter.

Mama has the classy movie star looks of a past-her-prime Katharine Hepburn while Lovie has the glamour and lush beauty of Rita Hayworth. Even Uncle Charlie can still turn heads. At sixty-three, no less. But the good looks fairy passed me by. My two best features are my clear olive skin and my thick brown hair. Which, thanks to my expertise, always looks like it ought to be featured on the pages of Glamour.

Everybody has to have something to brag about, and I guess with me, it's my sleek, stylish hair.

Lovie's cell phone rings and when she sees the number pop up, she tells me, "Rocky."

I've never seen her like this-her blue eyes shining and her voice dreamy.

"Hey, baby." She never calls anybody baby, not even Elvis, whom she adores. This is a Lovie I don't even know.

I'm happy for her, really I am. But a little scared, too. As I leave the fountain and walk my dog toward the statue of a barefoot, teenaged Elvis wearing overalls and carrying his cherished guitar, I say a little prayer that my cousin, who has never, ever been in love, doesn't lose herself in this new territory.

I also say a little prayer for myself. Jack and I used to call each other pet names. The sound of his voice used to make me misty-eyed. (Sometimes it still does, but I'm not going there.) If I thought I'd never have that kind of love again, I'd chop off my hair and join a nunnery.

Of course, that's a little extreme, especially since I'd have to give up cute designer shoes. Maybe I'd just leave Mooreville and go somewhere exotic. Or at least, someplace where Jack is not.

Impersonators are lined up to get their pictures made with the bronze image of their icon, so I volunteer as cameraman. When they find out my dog is named Elvis, they invite him to be in the pictures.

Naturally he tries to steal the show. And I'll have to say he's succeeding. Next year maybe I'll have him a little sequined doggie jumpsuit made.

Elvis puts on his best smile-tongue lolling out, lower lips pulled back-till Beulah Jane walks by clapping her hands.

"Listen up, Elvises! It's time to load the bus! Chop, chop, everybody!"

As he makes a beeline for her bony ankle, I grab Elvis' leash. "Don't even think about it."

The impersonators nab cameras and bulging bags from the gift shop, then rush after Beulah Jane.

Lovie strolls up wearing a big grin. "What's the one-woman hostility committee up to now?"

"Herding the tribute artists to the bus."

Lovie consults her watch. "We have fifteen minutes. What's her hurry?"

"Never mind. Let her enjoy being in charge. Tell me about Rocky."

"He's coming to Tupelo."

"When?"

"In a few days. He's flying with a friend in a private plane."

"That's good news, Lovie."

"Good, my foot. You can hear my vagina shouting hallelujah all the way to the state line."

Now, that's the Lovie I know and adore. I link my arm through hers and we head to the bus.

Beulah Jane is standing up front, her lips moving as she counts heads.

"We seem to be one Elvis short," she tells me.

"Who's missing?" As I scan the crowd, it doesn't take me long to realize our missing impersonator is the waiter from Huntsville. "Has anybody seen Brian?"

Eli, the lone female artist, stands up at the back. "I saw him in the chapel about five minutes ago."

"Everybody stay put. Lovie and I will check."

Even if Brian is not in the chapel, he can't be far. The Birthplace is very small with all the buildings clustered in an area little more than a city block. Grabbing Elvis, we trudge across the parking lot, past the gift shop, and up the hill toward the small 'seventies-style chapel. I don't dare leave him unattended on the same bus with Beulah Jane.

"Listen, Lovie. Is that music?"

"If that's music, I'm a hot buttered biscuit."

Elvis, who obviously agrees with Lovie, hoists his leg on a native hibiscus bush.

I recognize the flat tenor notes wafting from the chapel. It's Brian, all right, playing the piano and wailing, "I once was lost but now am found ..."

Suddenly there's a discordant crash and "Amazing Grace" comes to a halt. I have the sick feeling you'd get if you were standing on the deck of the Titanic and felt it tilting under your feet.

"Hurry." Grabbing Lovie's arm, I half drag her and Elvis up the last stretch and through the chapel doors. It's dim in here and it takes a minute for my eyes to adjust.

Then I see our missing impersonator-slumped over the keyboard of the upright piano.

"Brian!"

(Continues...)



Excerpted from ELVIS and the Grateful Dead by Peggy Webb Copyright © 2009 by Peggy Webb. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 31 )
Rating Distribution

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(13)

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(11)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 31 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 3, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    lighthearted amusing whodunit

    Tupelo, Mississippi is the town where Elvis grew up. Each year the townsfolk have a Best Elvis Competition that brings in thousands of his fans, impersonators and look alikes. Hair stylist Callie Valentine Jones has the real McCoy, the reincarnated spirit of the King in ironically a hound dog's body though she knows it not.. He silently judges the contestants comparing them to when he was in star prime. He also is trying to reconcile Callie with her almost ex-husband Jack who disappears a lot, does not want kids, and has a secret job that only Elvis knows about.

    One of the participants Brian Watson is found dead on the piano. When a second impersonator Dick Gerard dies on the dance floor, the local police believe both men were murdered. The prime suspect is Callie's cousin Lovie, the caterer of the event. When a third person dies, Callie's Uncle Charlie tries to persuade her not to investigate since Lovie's was dancing with the second victim when he started shaking and died and the focus will be on her even more and Charlie does not want Callie in danger. Callie and the King make inquiries anyway.

    Peggy Webb's amateur sleuth is a lighthearted amusing whodunit with outrageous almost slapstick scenes that Callie seems to step into as she tries to help Lovie, dodge her spouse and deal with a horde of Elvis reenactors when she has the real one. She and Elvis the hound rotate perspective leading to a zany over the top of Woodall Mountain mystery. The second Southern Cousins corny mystery (see ELVIS AND THE DEARLY DEPARTED) is simply entertaining fun.

    Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 17, 2014

    Highly recommend. Very funny. Must read them all.

    Very funny and a can't wait to see what happens. The characters and plots are so funny you will be laughing all thru the book and can't wait to turn the pages.

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  • Posted December 29, 2013

    Do not drink coffee while you read!!

    I learned with the first book not to be drinking coffee while reading as trying to swallow while laughing hysterically only makes hot coffee come out your nose! It is true with the second book, also. Peggy Webb has the ability to make you think she is sitting next to you telling the story of her family. I have cousins that resemble her characters a lot. Can't wait to read the next one.

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  • Posted March 1, 2013

    Very Good!

    I love doggie mysteries, there are series that I like better - (Dog Walker Mysteries) but the Elvis Series is very good, and very adorable. Who wouldn't like a dog who thinks he's Elvis?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 25, 2013

    Hillarious whodunit especially for an Elvis Presley fan

    This series is hillarious, heart warming and very engaging. What a recipe for entertainment... two cousins who are thick as thieves while being different as two people can get, an extended family of characters in a town where everyone knows everyone and thinks they know everyone's business. Then you add in an Elvis Fest where impersonator's start to die and you have a great murder mystery. The topping to it all is the beloved basset hound who believes he is the reincarnation of "the King" himself, sent to take care of his human mom, Callie (one of the cousins). You will not be able to put it down and once it is over, the next escapade has to be started.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 23, 2011

    Silly and fun.

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  • Posted October 14, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Fun Read

    I love the family relationships and really love Elvis .

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 27, 2011

    good book

    i havent read it but it looks realy good

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  • Posted February 8, 2011

    hi its terrible

    tttttteeeeeeeerrrrrrrrriiiiiiiibbbbbbbblllllllleeerreeee

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 7, 2010

    The King ain't nothin' but a basset hound

    Callie and Lovie, inseparable adult Southern girl cousins, are at it again, as their adventures become more complex and zany, and their romances become more frustrating and convoluted. Elvis impersonators are dying right and left, and the only thing they appear to have in common, besides bad jumpsuits and bad hair, is Lovie's catering. Obviously, the cousins must jump into action to save Lovie's reputation (and her freedom), and they start investigating, suspecting, and generally annoying everyone involved. Elvis (Callie's opinionated basset hound with the Kingly reincarnation complex) does more narration in this book than in the first, and seems to be getting funnier...and more devious. Good thing Callie's almost-ex Jack knows the real score with the chunky pup, or he'd be the one getting away with murder.

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    Posted September 7, 2010

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    Posted September 7, 2010

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    Posted September 7, 2010

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    Posted September 7, 2010

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    Posted December 30, 2011

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    Posted March 16, 2011

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    Posted November 17, 2010

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    Posted May 1, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 26, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2010

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