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A local busybody and amateur sleuth, Julia Springer Murdoch tackles the disappearance of three of her friends' husbands and a plan to turn the old North Carolina courthouse into condos. Although Cynthia Darlow has read other Miss Julia novels, she doesn't sound like a native Tarheel. All of Julia's female friends sound pretty much alike, especially during rapid-fire verbal exchanges. Despite differences in social background, they all drawl out their sentences and place interrogative emphasis and extra syllables on important and final words. The Black women (who all seem to work as housekeepers) have deeper voices and poor diction. Except for references to Viagra and automobile accidents, the novel could be set in the antebellum South. Darlow keeps the tone light and quick, but the audio doesn't end quite fast enough. Simultaneous release with the Viking hardcover (Reviews, Jan. 7). (Mar.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.