Sugarplum Dead (Death on Demand Series #12)

Sugarplum Dead (Death on Demand Series #12)

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by Carolyn G. Hart

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It's getting to look a lot like Christmas on the sea island of Broward's Rock, South Carolina. At the Death on Demand mystery bookstore, owner Annie Darling's Yuletide preparations have to be put on hold thanks to several rather inconvenient distractions — including murder. Across the windswept isle, in the spacious, spooky mansion of Marguerite Dumaney Ladson

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It's getting to look a lot like Christmas on the sea island of Broward's Rock, South Carolina. At the Death on Demand mystery bookstore, owner Annie Darling's Yuletide preparations have to be put on hold thanks to several rather inconvenient distractions — including murder. Across the windswept isle, in the spacious, spooky mansion of Marguerite Dumaney Ladson, a motley crew is gathering for the onetime movie star's gala Xmas/birthday bash. And when it turns deadly, it's Annie who has to prove the innocence of the most disturbing suspect: her own deadbeat dad.

Editorial Reviews

Toby Bromberg
Sugar Plum Dead is sheer delight, a treasure for the lover of classic mysteries. All the trappings, the large unhappy family, the mysterious stranger, etc., are here and done up in fine style. As refreshing as an autumn breeze, Sugar Plum Dead is another feather in Ms. Hart's cap.
Romantic Times
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this 12th Death on Demand adventure, Anthony and Agatha award-winner Hart uses a couple of reliable mystery devices to serve up a story as entertaining as any in this deservedly popular series. The first of these is the perennial fake psychic, here handsome charmer Emory Swanson, who comes to Broward's Rock Island to establish the Evermore Foundation, where individuals--particularly rich, older women--can get in touch with their dearly departed. One of Swanson's unsuspecting devot es is retired movie star Marguerite Dumaney. She's still glamorous, still imperious, and ready to sign over her fortune to the foundation, though her many needy relatives have other ideas for her money. While any of them might be desperate enough to kill Marguerite, it's Happy, her aptly named sister, who is murdered. Annie Darling, proprietor of the Death on Demand Mystery Book Store, enters the picture when her long-absent father, who turns out to be Happy's ex-husband, appears. Annie, ably assisted by husband Max, has to clear her father and stepsister of suspicion, while she simultaneously searches for the real culprit. The evidence surrounding a second murder points to the man they all love to hate: Swanson. Or is he too obvious? Another classic story twist resolves matters in a fully satisfying finale. Hart, who's also the author of the Henrie O series (Death in Paradise, etc.), knits a tidy plot, though the cute descriptions of Max and Annie's cat, Agatha, may be too cloying for some. The insider view of the mystery bookstore world remains a special draw. (Nov.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
The catalytic agent in Hart's latest series addition (White Elephant Dead) is "Pudge" Laurence, the long-lost father of bookstore-owner and village sleuth Annie Laurence Darling. At the behest of a famous actress, Pudge is visiting Broward's Island, SC, where a financially slippery purveyor of crystals and otherworldly contacts creates problems for both families; the actress and Annie's mother-in-law seem enamored of his ways. Annie must tread a fine line, then: she tries to help her mother-in-law while circumventing her unwanted father. An charismatic characterization, the familiar island, and an excellent plot that is nicely knit together make this an essential purchase. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 8/00.] Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Delectable. Elegantly wrapped Sugarplums are sure to be special treats under many a holiday tree.
The Drood Review
If you enjoy traditional whodunits, then by all means spring for Sugarplum Dead this Christmas. If your loved ones are cozy fans or Hart fans or both, then congratulate yourself on having such a marvelous present already picked out.
Kirkus Reviews
Annie (the mystery bookshop proprietor) and Max (the well-heeled golfing fanatic) Darling tackle the 12th discombobulation (White Elephant Dead, 1999, etc.) to throw South Carolina's insular Broward Island into genteel chaos. First, Annie's long-lost dad, Pudge, pops up, eager to establish a relationship. Then Max's slightly daft mom Laurel is seen communing with a gravestone in hopes of contacting one of her late husbands. And Norma Desmondish movie star Maurgerite Dumaney, wealthy, imperious, and eccentric, has invited all her ne'er-do-well relatives to her birthday celebration, at which she plans to disinherit them all, even her stand-in/secretary, the obsequious Alice, and leave her millions to Emory Swanson and his Evermore Foundation (a scam to bilk lonely widows by putting them in touch with their dear departed). Marguerite's sister, Happy, is the first to die, bludgeoned with a hockey stick. Pudge is accused, then his stepdaughter, and eventually Swanson. The answer lies somewhere in the maze, or possibly the attic, or maybe the conservatory or the secret passageway. One more will die before the Darlings settle in for a rapturous Christmas, content with their relatives, their cats, and their free-spending customers.

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Death on Demand Series, #12
Product dimensions:
4.18(w) x 6.75(h) x 1.04(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Annie Laurance Darling crouched on the floor by the coffee bar. She peered into a deep crack. Maybe if she got a skewer she could reach the silver bell. A skewer? This was a bookstore, not a culinary shop. Whatever made her think of skewers? Probably the box of Diane Mott Davidson books waiting to be unpacked. Readers loved books with sleuthing cooks at Christmas. Maybe she'd better order some more of the Katherine Hall Page and Janet Laurence titles.

Annie popped to her feet, tried to push back a loop of yarn into her sweater and glared at Agatha. "Agatha, this is my favorite Christmas sweater."

The elegant black cat lifted a languid paw, the same paw that an instant before had swiped swiftly through the air and ripped the silver bell from atop the green yarn Christmas tree on Annie's red sweater.

Agatha tilted her head and looked for all the world as if she were smiling.

Annie finally grinned. "Okay. I don't blame you. It's what anybody deserves who goes around with a bell dangling from their front. Happy holidays, sweetie." Annie reached out, carefully, and stroked the velvet-soft fur, then moved behind the wooden bar and poured Kona coffee into a mug. Each mug at the Death on Demand Mystery Bookstore carried the name of a famous mystery. This one emblazoned: MURDER FOR CHRISTMAS by Agatha Christie. She also had a mug with the English title: HERCULE POIROT'S CHRISTMAS.

Annie held the warm mug and smelled that wonderful Kona aroma. How cheerful to think of lacy waterfalls and champagne music when it was cold and foggy outside. Annie loved the South Carolina Low Country and especially the barrier island of Broward's Rock,but even she had to admit that December, with its sharp winds and drab brown marshes, was a good time to stay inside, read wonderful mysteries (perhaps Renowned Be Thy Grave; Or, the Murderous Miss Mooney by P. M. Carlson, Death at Dearly Manor by Betty Rowlands or False Light by Caroline Llewellyn) and drink Hawaii's best coffee. December was also a good time for shelling, especially an hour or two after dead low tide. Yesterday she and Max had found channeled whelks and two lettered olive shells. The olive, South Carolina's state shell, was glossy with a pointed spire. Max had picked up the first olive and smiled. "Hey, this one's perfect. A Low Country Christmas present just for us."

Annie grinned. She adored Christmas, but sometimes she thought Max loved the holiday even more. Last night they'd made red and green taffy and one evening soon they would whip up a batch of divinity. As far as Annie was concerned, there was never time enough in December to do all she wanted to do. There were boxes of books to unpack and a big stack of luscious bound galleys to read. Publishers sent out early paperback versions of forthcoming books to alert booksellers, and many of her favorite authors would have new books out in the coming year: Anne George, Harlan Coben, Peter Robinson, Deborah Crombie and Caroline Graham. Hmm, what riches. Her Christmas present to herself would be the time to savor these books.

Annie picked up the fragrant coffee, happily drank. Christmas was her favorite season. She loved everything about it: the tangy scent of pine, decorating the tree, the lighting of an Advent candle at church each Sunday, buying presents and wrapping them, making divinity and pumpkin bread. After all, Max wasn't the only chef in the family....

She put down the cup. Family. Christmas was a time for families. She'd always envied friends with big, sprawling, though sometimes noisy and cantankerous families. Her own memories were, perforce, of small gatherings. But happy ones. There were the years with her mother before she died. Later Annie had come to the island to spend the holidays with her Uncle Ambrose, a taciturn man who seldom spoke but whose every gesture to Annie spoke of love. These recent years, Christmases with Max. Dear Max, who always looked toward her when he entered the room and whose dark blue eyes held a special warmth that was for her alone. Dear Max, who was definitely not the Prince Charming she had imagined. Oh, of course he was charming and handsome and sexy, but he was light-years different from any spouse she'd ever envisioned when she was growing up. To be honest, she'd thought of someone like herself. serious, intense, hardworking.

"Agatha, have you ever heard of the Odd Couple?"

Agatha lifted her head to sniff the coffee mug, wrinkled her black nose.

Quickly, Annie said, "Well, we aren't that odd."

From the front of the store, Ingrid Webb, her longtime clerk and friend, called, "Annie, are you talking to that cat again?"

Annie called back, "Ingrid, she didn't mean to bite you."

"Humph." There was a slap of books being shelved.

Annie understood Ingrid's coolness. Of course Agatha had damn well meant to bite. Agatha was bright, quick, gloriously beautiful and exceedingly temperamental.

Annie bent down, whispered, "Agatha, you shouldn't have."

Agatha eyed the green-yarn Christmas tree on Annie's sweater.

Annie took a step back. Not, of course, that she was afraid of her own cat. But prudence prompted retreat.

Prudence. Yes, Annie knew she was prudent.

Max was not prudent, although he was too mellow ever to be reckless. Max didn't believe in schedules. When they traveled,he was always ready to turn down an enticing road even if it wasn't going in the right direction. He liked the unexpected. Max was handsome and fun and adventurous -- and lazy? She brushed away the word. To be fair, Max was quite capable of intense and excellent work. It was only that he so rarely found any reason to work. Max was debonair and clever and kind. So, all right...

Sugarplum Dead. Copyright © by Carolyn Hart. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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