Murder Carries a Torch (Southern Sisters Series #7)

Murder Carries a Torch (Southern Sisters Series #7)

4.5 17
by Anne George

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Though unalike as snowflakes, sisters Patricia Anne and Mary Alice share a sympathetic heart for their distraught cousin Luke — known affectionately in his boyhood as "Pukey Lukey," because of his penchant for getting sick in moving vehicles. Luke is desperate to hunt down Virginia, his wife of forty years, who has run off with a housepainter/snake-handling


Though unalike as snowflakes, sisters Patricia Anne and Mary Alice share a sympathetic heart for their distraught cousin Luke — known affectionately in his boyhood as "Pukey Lukey," because of his penchant for getting sick in moving vehicles. Luke is desperate to hunt down Virginia, his wife of forty years, who has run off with a housepainter/snake-handling preacher named "Monk." And the sisters have graciously agreed to accompany their stricken kinsman on his Luke's car, of course.

But, while practical "Mouse" and flamboyant "Sister" are unable to find their runaway cousin-in-law among the asp-loving faithful on Chandler Mountain, they do manage to stumble upon the corpse of a pretty young redhead who was prematurely sent to her eternal reward. And before you can say "anaconda," they are hot on the serpentine trail of a killer who'd like nothing better than to sink a pair of poisonous fangs into two meddling Southern sisters!

Editorial Reviews
The Southern sisters' cousin Pukey Lukey is in a terrible state. His wife, Virginia, has run off with a housepainting preacher. And that's just the start of his trouble. Because before Patricia Anne and Mary Alice can help Pukey Lukey find his beloved Virginia, they'll discover that all is not heavenly in the Church of Jesus Is Our Life and Heaven Hereafter, where the faithful are into snake-handling, the holy men are engaged in a venomous war, and a killer has left Pukey with a huge lump on his head -- and a dead redhead by his side.
Toby Bromberg
Those sixtyish southern sisters Patricia Anne and Mary Alice get a call from their cousin Luke, who’s in despair, for his wife Virginia has run off with a preacher.

The sisters go with Luke to the church of Virginia’s "beloved." When Luke doesn’t come out, the sisters go in to find him unconscious near a dead woman on a pew. There’s no sign of Virginia.

The woman’s death does allow Mary Alice to meet Sheriff Virgil Stuckey. (She thinks he looks like Cary Grant, everyone else says Willard Scott.) Then Virginia’s car is discovered with another corpse in it, but still no Virginia.

Reading about these southern sisters is like a visit with old friends If you have never had the pleasure of meeting them, Murder Carries A Torch makes for an excellent starting point.
Romantic Times

Birmingham magazine
Beautifully captures the rhythm of this dialogue...interweaves humor with mystery and plain good writing to bring us a real vision of the time and place....I haven't been this excited about a mystery series since the Hardy Boys.
Library Journal
Petite Patricia Anne and hefty Mary Alice, series sister-sleuths in their sixties, hasten to the aid of their cousin Luke, whose wife has apparently run off with a painter. They search for the woman and discover a dead body in a "snake-handling" church; much-married Mary Alice meets and flirts with the investigating sheriff; police find the painter dead; and someone "hides" a rattlesnake in Mary Alice's car. Loads of excitement, then, accompanied by sisterly repartee, mostly humorous family complications and narrow escapes; light reading for most collections. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Kirkus Reviews
Here, again, comes Luke Nelson, a.k.a. Pukey Lukey, chronically carsick cousin to those redoubtable southern matrons Patricia Ann Hollowell and Mary Alice Crane (Murder Shoots the Bull, 1999, etc.). The sisters, just back from their Christmas visit to Patricia Ann's daughter Haley in Warsaw, are eagerly awaiting the arrival of David Anthony, first son of Mary Alice's daughter Debbie and naturally conceived sibling to her turkey-baster twins Fay and May. But family being family, they can't shrink from helping Lukey find his bride of 40-some years, Virginia, who ran off with Monk Crawford, itinerant preacher and part-time house painter who did just the best job on her soffits. Tracking the missing pair to the Church of Jesus is Our Life and Heaven Hereafter, where Monk ministers to the good people of Chandler Mountain by handling rattlesnakes and drinking strychnine, they find Monk isn't home; instead, laid neatly on a pew, is the body of his daughter-in-law Susan. Moved by Susan's downtrodden sister, Betsy Mahall, Patricia Ann sees fit to investigate, remarking all the way how childish and selfish—not to mention gluttonous—her sister is (unlike her thoughtful, sensible, size-six self). But Mary Alice helps investigate, too, if only to impress her new beau, Sheriff Virgil Stuckey, smitten at his first sight of Mary Alice in the purple leather boots she brought back from Poland. Complaining about her sister's foibles leaves little time for detection, so it's lucky for Patricia Ann that the solution to the case virtually falls into her lap. But beware—this southern saga is syrupy enough to upset tummies stronger than Luke's.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Southern Sisters Series , #7
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.18(w) x 6.75(h) x 0.72(d)

Read an Excerpt

Murder Carries a Torch
A Southern Sisters Mystery

Chapter One

"I'm telling you, Patricia Anne. Fred kissing the ground like he did was a little too much. Embarrassing."

"He slipped."

"Slipped, my foot. The man was on his hands and knees patting the concrete, saying, 'Thank God.' It's a wonder everybody didn't fall over him."

I glanced around at my sister, Mary Alice, who was standing at my utility room door watching me put clothes in the washing machine. She had on a gray pants suit with a cream-colored turtleneck sweater and had already informed me that she was on her way to a luncheon.

I was one of the ones who had nearly fallen over my husband Fred at the airport, but I still felt the need to defend him.

"He hates to fly."

"Well, I figured that out for myself about an hour out of Birmingham. Every time I spoke to him he growled. Did you hear those noises? Pure growls. And he didn't even chew the peanuts. He trashed them." Mary Alice chomped her teeth together. "Like that. Thank God I wasn't sitting next to him on the Concorde. You've earned your place in heaven living with that man for forty years." She paused. "Why are you spraying Windex around that shirt-sleeve cuff?"

"Because I haven't had a chance to go to the store. This works as good as Spray 'n Wash." I put the shirt into the machine, closed the lid, and turned on the warm cycle.

"How come you're not jet-lagged like I am?" I asked. "I feel like there's a weight on top of my head."

Mary Alice moved from the doorway and I followed her into the kitchen and collapsed onto a chair.

"I have more reserves than you do. Morestored-up energy. You want some coffee?"

I nodded that I did. She got two mugs, poured the coffee, and pushed the sugar toward me.

"You see," she explained seriously, "it's simple. I'm slightly larger than you, and that little extra fat gives me more energy. If you would eat normally, you wouldn't be so tired."

Little extra fat. Slightly larger. Ha. The woman is sixfeet tall and weighs two hundred fifty pounds. Admits to that. No telling what she really weighs. Especially after hitting every good restaurant in Warsaw, Poland, where we had been for the last two weeks spending Christmas with my newly married daughter Haley. And, believe me, there are some good restaurants there.

"You probably lost weight in Warsaw," she continued.

"I may have. All that walking."

"And not eating."

I poured milk into my coffee and watched it swirl around. No way I was going to get into this argument. Mary Alice has never believed that it's genetics that made me a foot shorter than she is and a size six petite. She swears it's lack of nutrition.

"I had an E-mail from Haley this morning," I said. "She's missing us."

"Well, of course she is. Nobody speaks English in Warsaw. Nobody. And there's not even so much as a Wal-Mart. just all those museums, old as the hills, and you have to ride those rickety streetcars to get anywhere, for heaven's sake."

"I thought it was a beautiful city."

"Well, you see, that's the difference in you and me, Mouse. I like things to move a little faster."

"You mean like interstates?"

"And better TV. Their Wheel of Fortune was pitiful."

I sighed and let Mary Alice ramble on. Haley was very happy, and she and her new husband, Dr. Philip Nachman, considered it the opportunity of a lifetime to be spending the first few months of their married life in richly cultured Warsaw.

"I'll say this, though." Mary Alice took a sip of her coffee. "Nephew seems to be making Haley happy."

The "nephew" bit is going to take a little clarification. Mary Alice's second husband was also Philip Nachman. Haley's new husband is his nephew, named for his uncle. So Haley and Philip are Mary Alice's niece and nephew (Philip by marriage). The "nephew" is to keep from confusing him with the original Philip Nachman, dead and buried at Elmwood Cemetery beside Sister's other husbands long ago, but still alive (so she says) in her heart. Certainly in her bank account. Each of her three husbands left her richer than the preceding one.

She leaned forward. "Don't you think so?"

"What? That Haley's happy? Sure."

"It's the Nachman genes." She stirred her coffee. "I almost asked Haley, but I decided not to."

"Asked her what?"

"Well, my Philip, when we were making love, just before he'd," Sister paused. "Well, he had this unusual thing he'd do."


"He'd stop for a second and say, 'Lord, the saints are marching in.'" She smiled.

I thought about this disclosure for a moment. "Somehow I don't think that's genetic, Sister."

"Probably not. He did go to Tulane. But every time I hear that song I get misty-eyed. I wanted to have a New Orleans band play it at his funeral, strutting down the path at Elmwood with their umbrellas, but I wasn't sure it was kosher."

"I wouldn't think so."

Mary Alice looked into her coffee cup thoughtfully. "He was a lovely man, Mouse. Very much in touch with his inner child. No big alpha male hang-up like Fred has."

"Alpha males don't kiss the ground when they get home..."

Murder Carries a Torch
A Southern Sisters Mystery
. Copyright © by Anne George. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Anne George (c.____ - 2001) was the Agatha Award-winning author of the Southern Sisters mystery series which culminate in Murder Boogies with Elvis, publishing in August 2001. Like Patricia Anne, she was a happily married former school teacher living in Birmingham, Alabama. Ms. George was also a former Alabama State Poet and a regular contributor to literary publications. During her lifetime she was nominated for several awards, including the Pulitzer. Being a true lady of the Old South, her date of birth will forever be a mystery.

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Murder Carries a Torch 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love a good mystery and these are some of the neatest I have read lately. Especially with the Southern Sisterly banter.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anne George is hilariously funny with this Sister Series! I find myself laughing out loud at Mary Alice's antics and Patricia's frustrations. You can just picture the whole scene each time. It's too bad Anne passed away before putting out many more additions to this series. She is an Author I sorely miss.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Anne George has done it again with Murder Carries a Torch, one of her newest southern style novels. She's created a warmly funny mystery involving two sisters, two murders, and a snake handling preacher/ housepainter. Anne George takes you through the adventures of a pair of nosy sisters that have a knack for getting in trouble. The journey begins in Birmingham, Alabama. Patricia Anne and Mary Alice, affectionately called Mouse and Sister, try to help their cousin, 'Pukey Lukey,' find his runaway wife. As the three search Chandler Mountain, two victims of vicious murders are revealed, and Luke is attacked in a local church that has the reputation of housing deadly snakes. Before they know it, Patricia Anne and Mary Alice are swept into and tangled in the mystery. The duo digs themselves into the hunt as well as hidden trouble. Anne George puts Patricia Anne's smarts and Mary Alice's lack of reality to good use. Murder Carries a Torch is unpredictable throughout with an unexpected twist at the end. Although George breezes through the introduction of characters, she makes up for it in her development of characters. The personalities of the book are a sort of satire for southern traditions, using Texas-size accents. There is an air of humor and mystery lingering throughout the novel with plenty of side stories to perk your curiosity. The sisters' amateur ways and meddling personalities will have you smiling. Anne George's Murder Carries a Torch is a light summer read with an amusing southern tone. Patricia Anne's wits and Mary Alice's flamboyant personality will keep the pages of your book turning.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've read all of the Southern Sisters series and loved most of them. In Murder Carries a Torch, Patricia Anne and Mary Alice are back in their glory. Anne George intertwines great characters, her wonderful sense of humor, and a good murder mystery in this cute tale about snake handling ministers. The slightly surprising rescue at the end really illuminates George's sense of humor. The only disappointment in this book came from the Author's note, where I learned Anne George had passed away. The Southern Sisters series is a must read for cozy fans everywhere!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am not usually a fan of cozies, but this series is an exception. I have read all of the Southern Sisters mysteries and love them all. I really hate to come to the end of these books. It is like leaving old friends until the next one is published.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Again the two sisters have struck gold. I love their eccentric characters, good humored banter combined with a sense of family devotion. In this book, Sister and Patricia Anne get caught up in a murder involving snake handlers! I can't wait for the next book. Thanks for a relaxing, entertaining read.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Birmingham, Alabama's Southern Sisters are tired after just returning home from spending two weeks in Warsaw, Poland celebrating the wedding of Patricia Anne's daughter. However, their idyllic breather ends even before it begins when cousin Luke 'Puke' Nelson asks for their help. Apparently, Virginia, Luke's wife of forty years, left him for a house painter, Holden 'Monk' Crawford. Reluctantly Patricia Anne agrees to accompany her more enthusiast sibling Mary Alice in finding the runaway.

Mouse and Sister as Patricia Anne and Mary Alice are more commonly known trace Virginia and Monk to a remote church on Mount Chandler. However, instead of finding the runaways, the Southern Sisters find two murdered corpses, neither being Monk or Virginia. As they continue their inquiries, Sister and the local Sheriff seem stuck on one another. Ultimately, they locate a dead Monk, but they still have not found the missing Virginia.

Fans of the series will fully enjoy the seventh cozy in the Southern Sisters series. MURDER CARRIES A TORCH centers more on Mouse's humorous asides with the reader about the excessive behavior of Sister than on detective work. Still, that should not surprise fans of the series, as that is the essence of all the novels.

Harriet Klausner

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
He stays the same speen but begins to go harder.