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White Elephant Dead (Death on Demand Series #11)

White Elephant Dead (Death on Demand Series #11)

4.0 6
by Carolyn G. Hart

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Murder is, surprisingly, not all that uncommon on timy Broward's Rock, an idyllic sea island community off the South Carolina coast. Annie Darling's popular mystery bookshop, Death on Demand, is where the locals come to discuss the juicy details of each criminal offense—under the watchful gaze of a pampered feline prima donna named Agatha. But now Annie's dear


Murder is, surprisingly, not all that uncommon on timy Broward's Rock, an idyllic sea island community off the South Carolina coast. Annie Darling's popular mystery bookshop, Death on Demand, is where the locals come to discuss the juicy details of each criminal offense—under the watchful gaze of a pampered feline prima donna named Agatha. But now Annie's dear friend (and best customer) Henny Brawley stands accused of murdering a Women's Club volunteer-cum-blackmailer. So Annie rouses her husband Max into action, and together they dive into the shark pool of dotty eccentrics and imperious belles who constitute the island's smart set. Because only there can the Darlings prove hapless Henny innocent—by detemining who among the well-heeled had the dirtiest little secret...and would kill to protect it.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble, Inc.
The homicide rate of Broward's Rock, South Carolina, is rather high, but for the denizens of Death on Demand, the island's popular mystery bookshop, the killings can hardly come quickly enough. Every day, these well-tanned locals gather in Annie Darling's little store to sort out the details of each new shooting and stabbing, welcoming each garish killing as if it were a new Miss Marple. However, when their fellow mystery buff Henny Brawley stands accused of murder, all these amateur sleuthers snap into action. Pleasant characters and surprising plot twists.
Cleveland Plain Dealer
Carolyn Hart is the reigning monarch of the amateur sleuth mystery.
Oklahoma City Oklahoman
A page-turner...charming...colorful...intriguing twists and turns.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Mystery aficionados will get a workout while trying to catch all the references to mystery authors and their protagonists in Hart's 11th entry (after Yankee Doodle Dead) in her Agatha Award-winning Death on Demand series. Annie Darling, who owns a mystery bookshop on the barrier island of Broward's Rock, S.C., is appalled when Kathryn Girard, one of the island's Women's Club members, is slain and Annie's friend--and good customer--Henny Brawley, who was injured at the scene, is accused of the crime. Kathryn was supposed to be collecting donations for the annual white elephant sale, but instead she used the Women's Club van to visit the houses of four wealthy families. When Annie and her amateur sleuth husband, Max, discover a stash of thousand-dollar bills in a photo album taken from Kathryn's apartment, they realize that the dead woman had been blackmailing their friends and neighbors. But why? What did the richest of the island's residents have to hide? And who would kill to preserve their secret? As Henny recuperates in the hospital, Annie and Max set out to prove her innocent. Hart's panoply of vivid characters--a tough mystery writer, a dippy mother-in-law, a hard-working single father, an arrogant police chief--makse for entertaining set pieces, but their relationships aren't always fully developed. Moreover, Hart's copious allusions to fellow genre authors and their sleuths becomes distracting. Though no white elephant, this is not prime Hart; still, cozy fans should cotton to it well enough. Author tour. (Sept.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
When Henny Brawley, organizer of the Broward's Rock (SC) women's club annual white elephant sale, goes missing, book store owner and series sleuth Annie Darling quickly begins a search. They find Henny, but unconscious and in the vicinity of a dead body. The new police chief pins the murder on Henny, so Annie, Max, and droves of club members come to the rescue. Bubbling with energy, good humor, hearty appetite, and affection, Annie saves the island village from murderous deceit. Bouncy prose, nifty characters, and frequent references to other mysteries makes this "heartily" recommended for series fans. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/99.] Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Another of the author's labyrinthine exercises in detection on Broward's Rock, a small, gossipy island off the coast of South Carolina (Mint Julep Murder, 1995, etc.) where Annie Darling owns the Death on Demand bookstore and her husband Max is a private investigator. As the story opens, preparations for the annual Women's Club White Elephant sale are in full swing. Volunteer Kathryn Girard is using the Women's Club van to cover a list of pickup addresses, but the weather is so beastly that Henny Brawley, responsible for the van and impatiently awaiting Kathryn's overdue return, decides to go looking for her. When Henny fails to come back and the storm grows ever fiercer, Annie and Max set out to investigate in turn. In a remote lane, they discover the van, with Kathryn's bludgeoned body in the back, and Henny's old Dodge nearby—but where's Henny? Searchers comb the area until she's found, unconscious, with a severe blow to the head. Rushed to a hospital, Henny very slowly recovers as newly arrived Police Chief Garrett prepares to charge her with murder. Annie and Max now go all out to find the reason for Kathryn's death and soon discover that she was a blackmailer with a victim at each of the four stops on her list. It takes the death of an uninvolved bystander—and much exploration of past tragedies—before Annie can confront the real killer. Full of determinedly odd characters and heavily contrived motives, with references to fictional sleuths and mystery writers on nearly every page: overall, a downer that produces boredom and irritation in nearly equal degree.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Death on Demand Series , #11
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.18(w) x 6.75(h) x 0.76(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Loretta Campbell tugged at the twisted sheet. She was so uncomfortable. And so cold. If she pushed the bell, no one would come. Or it would be that impatient nurse's aide. Never saw a real nurse anymore. It wasn't the way it had been when Robert was a young doctor and she was a nurse. She was so sick. Too bad about knowing so much. Everyone pretended she was going to be all right. But she knew better.

Loretta wished she'd changed her will. It still made her mad. How could Gary ignore the truth, treating Sam and Kate the same? It wasn't right. All these years she'd not said anything. Aloud. Oh yes, Marie knew how she felt. One Christmas Eve, Marie had come up to her bedroom, stepped inside, closed the door and leaned against it. She was small, but that night she'd been formidable. Marie made it clear: Not a word, not a gesture, not a hint of difference or she'd make sure Loretta never saw Sam. Never.

"Not right." She pushed the words out of her tight throat. The old resentment boiled inside her, blotting out the pain.

"Of course it wasn't right." The voice was calm, soothing as ointment on a bum.

Loretta blinked but she couldn't see, not really, just a dark shape at the bedside. That woman. One of the hospital volunteers. She'd come before. Always so quiet. A listener.

A soft hand gently held Loretta's cold fingers. "Tell me all about it." The voice was as soothing as honey to a parched throat. "'Don't hold anything back. No one will ever know but me. It will make you feel so much better...

Kathryn Girard's hands moved swiftly, competently. She loved the steady, pulsing click of the knitting needles. She satquietly, as comfortable as a cat in her cushiony easy chair behind the low Queen Anne table that served as her cash desk. She always smiled when customers commented on the lack of a cash register — a cash box served her needs-and the absence of computers or credit card paraphernalia. "I enjoy the simple life," she always said with a slow, satisfied smile. "No credit cards. Not even a car." People were accustomed to seeing her on her sturdy bicycle. Some even went so far as to praise her commitment to a slow pace. As for the store, "'Cash or a check," she always said, her lips curving.

When the bell tinkled at the door of her narrow, dimly lit shop on a steamy Tuesday in September, she looked up without much interest. Then her eyes widened. For an instant, her hands were motionless. But the needles were clicking softly as the woman neared the desk, sharp gray eyes scanning the display of Delft china. A careful observer would note that most of the pieces were chipped.

The woman approaching was a very careful observer.

Kathryn looked down at her knitting, ignored the woman. After all, the lighting was dim. Perhaps Frances wouldn't even notice.

The woman was tall and thin, with a jutting-out face and uncompromising wire glasses; she came to an abrupt stop in front of the table.

Kathryn continued to knit, her eyes downcast.

"Frieda!" The sharp voice rose in surprise. "Frieda! Whatever are you doing here? Why, the police are still looking for you. Someone at church told me the other day that they never close a missing person case. It was a seven-day wonder when you disappeared."

Kathryn looked up slowly. "I beg your pardon?" Her eyes widened. A slight frown marred her heart-shaped face.

Frances Wilson clapped her hands on her bony hips, poked her face forward like a questing turtle. "Frieda March. I'd know you anywhere."

"I'm sorry." Kathryn's voice was slightly amused with just the right dash of kindly condescension. "Actually, you don't know me. I'm Kathryn Girard. I suppose your friend must resemble me. But I assure you, I'm not — who did you say — "

"Frieda March," Frances snapped.

"No." Kathryn was firm. "And where are you from?"


Kathryn gave a slight shrug. "Where is that?"

"Winnetka, Illinois." Suspicious gray eyes scoured Kathryn's face.

"I've never been there." Kathryn put her knitting on the table. "I hope you are enjoying your holiday." That was the trouble with resorts. People came from everywhere. "Are you looking for anything special? I have a nice selection of sandwich glass. And some pewter candlesticks from Boston."

"No. No, thanks." Frances was backing toward the door.

As soon as the bell tinkled, Kathryn rose from her chair. She was thinking fast. No matter who Frances contacted, nothing would likely happen for a few days. Today was Tuesday. Kathryn nodded. Thursday would be time enough. She needed a car. Usually her customers came to her. She thought longingly of her sleek black Porsche garaged at her hacienda in San Miguel de Allende. How could she — Oh, of course. She laughed aloud. What fun. What a clever way to make one last run.

Vince Ellis clicked off his computer. He looked at the yellow legal pad next to his keyboard. He was on to a hell of a story. But there was no spring in his step as he moved away from his study, walked softly up the stairs and stopped by the first bedroom. He opened the door gently. In the shaft of fight from the hall, Meg's long blond hair splayed on the pillow. But even in a deep sleep, Piggy, the old ragged cloth animal, was tightly clutched to her side. Piggy was all she'd brought from her old life. Meg was doing well now, although perhaps too often silent for a seven-year-old. And she still had nightmares. Doing well, but still oh so vulnerable.

Vince Ellis closed Meg's door. Desperate danger called for desperate measures. He would do what he had to do...

Meet the Author

An accomplished master of mystery, Carolyn Hart is the author of twenty previous Death on Demand novels. Her books have won multiple Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity Awards. She is also the creator of the Henrie O series, featuring a retired reporter, and the Bailey Ruth series, starring an impetuous, redheaded ghost. One of the founders of Sisters in Crime, Hart lives in Oklahoma City.

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White Elephant Dead 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
pinklady23 More than 1 year ago
This book is part of a series. Read alone it's good. Read in the context of the series you get a warmer feeling. The two main characters love, love love each other. Annie & Max. Then there is their circle of friends. Max mother, who is a hoot. She is always happy & thinks the best of everyone.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
WDWFan6 More than 1 year ago
I've read all of Valerie Wolzien & Mary Daheim's books and never thought I would find another series I would enjoy as much, but I have. Great story & characters.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Although sometimes a bit confusing with a long list of suspects, this is a nice evening's reading for fans of the genre.