Who Invited the Dead Man? (Thoroughly Southern Series #3) [NOOK Book]

Overview

Whether handling customer calls at the Yarbrough's Seed, Feed, and Nursery or close calls while solving crimes, sixty-something Southerner MacLaren Yarbrough knows how to charm her way through anything.

When a local man is found murdered at her husband's birthday gala, MacLaren sweet-talks clues out of affluent matriarchs, shady drifters, and even a disgruntled parrot to uncover the roots of the crime. ...
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Who Invited the Dead Man? (Thoroughly Southern Series #3)

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Overview

Whether handling customer calls at the Yarbrough's Seed, Feed, and Nursery or close calls while solving crimes, sixty-something Southerner MacLaren Yarbrough knows how to charm her way through anything.

When a local man is found murdered at her husband's birthday gala, MacLaren sweet-talks clues out of affluent matriarchs, shady drifters, and even a disgruntled parrot to uncover the roots of the crime.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781101100196
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 7/1/2002
  • Series: Thoroughly Southern Series, #3
  • Sold by: Penguin Group
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 217,052
  • File size: 349 KB

Read an Excerpt

Who Invited the Dead Man?

A Thoroughly Southern Mystery
By Patricia Houck Sprinkle

Wheeler Publishing

Copyright © 2002 Patricia Houck Sprinkle
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1587243490


Chapter One

SEPTEMBER

Knowing where to begin this story is like finding the end of a ball of yarn after it spends an hour with my beagle Lulu. Maybe the best place to begin is with the first death, which was as unexpected as the second, but not half as mystifying.

Garlon Wainwright dropped dead on the seventeenth hole at the Hopemore Country Club during the Labor Day Tournament. Poor Garlon was in the lead for the first time in his life, and some said his heart just couldn't stand the excitement.

According to his obituary in the Hopemore Statesman, Garlon was "fifty-five, only child of Augusta and the late Lamar Wainwright of Wainwright Mills, survived by his mother, one daughter, Meriwether, and his second wife, Candi (35)." I suspected Gusta had a hand in writing it. Nobody was surprised after the funeral to see Gusta and Meriwether riding to the cemetery in the first Cadillac and Candi, alone, in the second.

I kept meaning to get over to see Gusta after the funeral, but couldn't find a minute. That was the autumn after my husband, Joe Riddley Yarbrough, got shot in the head. He'd survived, but recovery from a head wound is slow, uphill work. I was busier than a bird dog in hunting season between driving him to various kinds of therapies and running Yarbrough's Feed, Seed and Nursery without him. As if that weren't enough, I'd agreed to serve as a Georgia magistrate in his place, and while I was used to watching Joe Riddley fit that in around work at the store, I hadn't realized quite how much time it took.

On Wednesday morning a whole week after Garlon's funeral, I was pushing Joe Riddley's wheelchair up the back porch ramp after physical therapy when I heard the phone.

"You gotta answer," our cook, Clarinda, called through the open screened door. "I'm makin' rolls and my hands're covered with grease and flour." Clarinda came to help me when our older son, Ridd, was born forty years ago, and has worked for-and bossed-me ever since.

The voice on the other end was chillier than a healthy dog's nose on a frosty morning. "MacLaren? I need you here right away." I knew it was Gusta. Anybody else in town would have told me who they were. Even my sons announce "Mama, this is Ridd" or "Hey, it's Walker." Gusta belonged to that highly self-confident elite who believe the rest of us have so few friends we will always recognize their voices.

Augusta Wainwright was the closest thing we had to royalty in Hopemore, Georgia. Her granddaddy was governor back when she was young, and her brother was a U.S. senator for three terms. She never bragged, but their names cropped up in a lot of conversations. She also never bragged that after Lamar's death she sold his daddy's cotton mills for more millions than I have fingers and toes, but she expected us to let newcomers know, so she got due respect. Gusta ascended to the throne of Hopemore within a few days of her birth, and never relinquished it.

"I can't come right now," I informed her. "I've got to get Joe Riddley settled. Then I have a reporter coming by to interview me for the paper." I tried to say that casually, but to tell the truth, I was a bit nervous and even a little excited. In the past it was Joe Riddley who got stories in the paper, for winning almost every award in the county. All I'd done was help him run Yarbrough's Feed, Seed and Nursery, raise two boys, and serve as treasurer to a lot of clubs. Treasurers don't get stories in the paper, unless they abscond with funds. Of course, I wrote a monthly gardening column, and my name was sometimes in the paper for helping our ungrateful police chief, Charlie Muggins, solve a murder. But those weren't stories about me.

Gusta didn't say a word about my interview. A bit miffed, I warned, "It will be close to dinnertime before I get there." For Gusta, as for us, dinner was still eaten at noon.

She sighed. "Well get here as soon as you can. I need you to come talk sense into Meriwether."

"What's the matter?"

"I don't want to mention it over the telephone." We've had private phone lines longer than Meriwether has been alive, but Gusta still thinks somebody might be listening in on her.

When I hung up, Joe Riddley spoke in his new, careful way. "Who was on the phone?"

Joe Riddley was the best-looking man in Hope County, as far as I was concerned-with long, rangy bones from his Scots grandfather and dark hair and eyes and a tinge of copper in his skin from his Cherokee grandmother-and it broke my heart to see him sitting in a wheelchair with a half-there look in his eyes and his cap dangling from one hand. All his life Joe Riddley had worn a succession of red caps with YARBROUGH'S in white letters over the brim. Our boys joked they'd bury their daddy in his cap and me with my pocketbook.

I set my pocketbook on the counter. "Gusta, commanding me to come talk sense into Meriwether. Hang up your hat."

Joe Riddley carefully centered his cap on its hook beside the kitchen closet. "Meriwether has sense," he said belligerently. Meriwether was one of Joe Riddley's favorite people. "Meriwether's going to be all right. You just wait and see."

He'd been saying that for twelve years, since Meriwether came home from college silent and pale as an ice princess and let out word that her engagement to Jed Blaine was over. When folks have watched you fall in love in preschool and stay in love with a hometown boy all the way through college, they feel they have a right to know more than that, but Meriwether never offered any explanations. Just moved back into her grandmother's house (where she'd lived since her own mother died in childbirth) and volunteered in charities Gusta thought would fold if Wainwrights didn't personally oversee them, accompanied Gusta on two or three trips abroad every year, wrote Gusta's letters, paid her bills, balanced her checkbook, and helped her host small elegant parties several times a year. Joe Riddley and I got Christmas cards from Jed, so we knew when he finished Mercer Law School and joined a practice in Atlanta, but he never came back to Hopemore and Meriwether never, ever mentioned his name.

Clarinda snorted from where she was rolling out the biscuits. "Best sense you can talk to that girl is, tell her to move out of her grandmother's house and get a life. Prince Charming ain't gonna ride his white charger up Miss Gusta's steps, and he may not recognize she's a princess once she gets wrinkles."

"I'll tell her you said so."

Clarinda opened her mouth to say more when we heard tires crunch on our gravel drive and knew the reporter had arrived.

No taller than my five-foot-three and wearing a khaki skirt, yellow cotton sweater, and sandals, she scarcely looked old enough to be out of college. Silky auburn hair swung down her back halfway to her bottom. Only the wire-rimmed glasses perched on her pert nose and the expression in her brown eyes were businesslike. "I'm Kelly Keane"-she held out one slim hand-"from the Hopemore Statesman. It's such a pretty day. Could we talk on your porch?"

Hope County is located in that strip of Middle Georgia between I-20 and I-16, right on the edge of the gnat line, and while nobody knows why gnats come to a certain Georgia latitude and stop, Joe Riddley always said it's because they know our climate's the next best thing to heaven. That September day the grass and trees were dark, dark green and an egg yolk sun floated near one startling white cloud in a deep blue sky. As we carried brownies and glasses of tea to our screened side porch, bees buzzed, young birds sassed their parents in the manner of adolescents everywhere, and the air was thick with the scent of our old apple tree.

"This is lovely!" Ms. Keane exclaimed as she took a rocker and looked over our three acres of grass, trees, and flower beds.

"Why, thank you. Our son Ridd does most of the work. He loves to dig in the dirt, and we're too busy selling plants to have time to fool with them."

She poised her pen over a pad. "Now, you and Judge Yarbrough-" She turned so fiery red I nearly went for water to put her out.

"That's all right. People do that all the time. They still think of him as the real judge."

"Are you both lawyers?"

"Oh, no. In Georgia you don't have to be a lawyer to be a magistrate. The chief magistrate in each county is elected, and she or he appoints the rest. Most of us are part-timers, running our businesses while we serve. The state gives us training every year."

She checked a list of questions she'd brought. "How long have you all been married?"

"Married, or together?" From her expression, I knew she thought we'd lived in sin before getting hitched, so I hurried to set her straight. "Joe Riddley and I have been married forty-one years, but we've known each other nearly sixty. We met when I was four and he was six, when my daddy stopped by his daddy's hardware store for cotton seed and fertilizer. That's the same store we now own, Yarbrough's Feed, Seed and Nursery. But everybody already knows that."

"That's romantic." She turned a little pink. "I think your husband has physical therapy with a friend of mine. Darren Hernandez?"

"That's right." While she consulted her notes, I was thinking I'd have to ask Darren if he'd taken Kelly out. His love life could use some sprucing up-he was pining for a two-timing woman down in Dublin. Kelly lifted her head. "You have two sons, right? Ridd teaches at the high school and Walker owns an insurance company?"

"Yes. They grew up in this house, just like their daddy. He was born upstairs." When she looked around at the big blue house in astonishment, I surprised her some more. "Joe Riddley is the fourth-generation Yarbrough to live here. His great-granddaddy owned a sawmill and lumber company back before the War. He could afford to build big after General Sherman lit through town and created an unprecedented demand for lumber. The Civil War," I answered her puzzled look. "Sherman burned the houses."

"Oh. Well, it's a gorgeous house." Then she stepped out of her reporter shoes to ask, "But aren't you nervous, living way down a dirt road so far from the highway?"

"It's a gravel road." I spoke a mite tartly, thinking of the fortune we'd invested in gravel over the years. "And it's just half a mile. Besides, we've got good neighbors."

She wrinkled her forehead. "Just two other houses, and one of them is empty."

Considering that one owner of the place on the corner had been a killer and another a kook, empty was a vast improvement. I didn't want to go into that, however. "We love it down here. It's very quiet except for crickets, owls, and frogs."

"Oh." The way she kept tapping her toe on the floor, quiet wasn't something she valued. She peered at her questions again. "Did you always want to be a magistrate?"

"Heavens no. I think the main reason they chose me is because I went to magistrate school with Joe Riddley so many times, and have watched him do magistrate business for thirty years in our office. Our son Walker, though, swears the county appointed me so they could save money by recycling the Judge Yarbrough sign on our office door."

"Could you, uh, tell me something about your husband's, uh, accident? What happened, and how you, uh, felt?" She had prepared that question ahead of time and was still embarrassed to ask it. Most people were embarrassed to talk about Joe Riddley right then.

"It happened too fast for me to feel anything. Everything changed in less than a minute. One night in August Joe Riddley went down the road looking for our beagle, who'd escaped her pen. A killer thought Joe Riddley was on his trail, and shot him. Luckily Joe Riddley had bent toward Lulu at the time, so the bullet just grazed his head. The same man also shot Lulu."

"You'd never know it." Across the lawn, Lulu was chasing a butterfly.

I chuckled. "That bullet turned her into the fastest three-legged beagle in Georgia."

"And your husband?"

How could I tell her that the bullet had turned Joe Riddley into a stranger? One evening I had a husband who was wise, gentle, funny, and occasionally grumpy, but who loved me more than life. When he woke up from his coma, I had a husband who could not read, who could not put words together in coherent sentences, who could not send signals to his legs to make them walk, who erupted in unexpected rages at the slightest thing, and who didn't even seem to like me most of the time. Sometimes he got so mad at me I was afraid of him.

That's not what I told Kelly Keane, of course.

"Joe Riddley's injury is mild compared to many," I said, quoting his doctor. "He ought to be back to normal eventually." I didn't add that "eventually" could seem like a very long time.

She wrote a pretty good article, except she never mentioned Yarbrough's Feed, Seed and Nursery and she quoted Walker about that dratted sign.

The next time I'd be in the paper would be in October, when Hiram Blaine was found dead in my dining room.



Continues...


Excerpted from Who Invited the Dead Man? by Patricia Houck Sprinkle Copyright © 2002 by Patricia Houck Sprinkle. 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.

Read More Show Less

First Chapter

[1]

SEPTEMBER

Knowing where to begin this story is like finding the end of a ball of yarn after it spends an hour with my beagle Lulu. Maybe the best place to begin is with the first death, which was as unexpected as the second, but not half as mystifying.

Garlon Wainwright dropped dead on the seventeenth hole at the Hopemore Country Club during the Labor Day Tournament. Poor Garlon was in the lead for the first time in his life, and some said his heart just couldn't stand the excitement.

According to his obituary in the Hopemore Statesman, Garlon was "fifty-five, only child of Augusta and the late Lamar Wainwright of Wainwright Mills, survived by his mother, one daughter, Meriwether, and his second wife, Candi (35)." I suspected Gusta had a hand in writing it. Nobody was surprised after the funeral to see Gusta and Meriwether riding to the cemetery in the first Cadillac and Candi, alone, in the second.

I kept meaning to get over to see Gusta after the funeral, but couldn't find a minute. That was the autumn after my husband, Joe Riddley Yarbrough, got shot in the head. He'd survived, but recovery from a head wound is slow, uphill work. I was busier than a bird dog in hunting season between driving him to various kinds of therapies and running Yarbrough's Feed, Seed and Nursery without him. As if that weren't enough, I'd agreed to serve as a Georgia magistrate in his place, and while I was used to watching Joe Riddley fit that in around work at the store, I hadn't realized quite how much time it took.

On Wednesday morning a whole week after Garlon's funeral, I was pushing Joe Riddley's wheelchair up the back porch ramp after physical therapy when I heard the phone.

"You gotta answer," our cook, Clarinda, called through the open screened door. "I'm makin' rolls and my hands're covered with grease and flour." Clarinda came to help me when our older son, Ridd, was born forty years ago, and has worked for-and bossed-me ever since.

The voice on the other end was chillier than a healthy dog's nose on a frosty morning. "MacLaren? I need you here right away." I knew it was Gusta. Anybody else in town would have told me who they were. Even my sons announce "Mama, this is Ridd" or "Hey, it's Walker." Gusta belonged to that highly self-confident elite who believe the rest of us have so few friends we will always recognize their voices.

Augusta Wainwright was the closest thing we had to royalty in Hopemore, Georgia. Her granddaddy was governor back when she was young, and her brother was a U.S. senator for three terms. She never bragged, but their names cropped up in a lot of conversations. She also never bragged that after Lamar's death she sold his daddy's cotton mills for more millions than I have fingers and toes, but she expected us to let newcomers know, so she got due respect. Gusta ascended to the throne of Hopemore within a few days of her birth, and never relinquished it.

"I can't come right now," I informed her. "I've got to get Joe Riddley settled. Then I have a reporter coming by to interview me for the paper." I tried to say that casually, but to tell the truth, I was a bit nervous and even a little excited. In the past it was Joe Riddley who got stories in the paper, for winning almost every award in the county. All I'd done was help him run Yarbrough's Feed, Seed and Nursery, raise two boys, and serve as treasurer to a lot of clubs. Treasurers don't get stories in the paper, unless they abscond with funds. Of course, I wrote a monthly gardening column, and my name was sometimes in the paper for helping our ungrateful police chief, Charlie Muggins, solve a murder. But those weren't stories about me.

Gusta didn't say a word about my interview. A bit miffed, I warned, "It will be close to dinnertime before I get there." For Gusta, as for us, dinner was still eaten at noon.

She sighed. "Well get here as soon as you can. I need you to come talk sense into Meriwether."

"What's the matter?"

"I don't want to mention it over the telephone." We've had private phone lines longer than Meriwether has been alive, but Gusta still thinks somebody might be listening in on her.

When I hung up, Joe Riddley spoke in his new, careful way. "Who was on the phone?"

Joe Riddley was the best-looking man in Hope County, as far as I was concerned-with long, rangy bones from his Scots grandfather and dark hair and eyes and a tinge of copper in his skin from his Cherokee grandmother-and it broke my heart to see him sitting in a wheelchair with a half-there look in his eyes and his cap dangling from one hand. All his life Joe Riddley had worn a succession of red caps with YARBROUGH'S in white letters over the brim. Our boys joked they'd bury their daddy in his cap and me with my pocketbook.

I set my pocketbook on the counter. "Gusta, commanding me to come talk sense into Meriwether. Hang up your hat."

Joe Riddley carefully centered his cap on its hook beside the kitchen closet. "Meriwether has sense," he said belligerently. Meriwether was one of Joe Riddley's favorite people. "Meriwether's going to be all right. You just wait and see."

He'd been saying that for twelve years, since Meriwether came home from college silent and pale as an ice princess and let out word that her engagement to Jed Blaine was over. When folks have watched you fall in love in preschool and stay in love with a hometown boy all the way through college, they feel they have a right to know more than that, but Meriwether never offered any explanations. Just moved back into her grandmother's house (where she'd lived since her own mother died in childbirth) and volunteered in charities Gusta thought would fold if Wainwrights didn't personally oversee them, accompanied Gusta on two or three trips abroad every year, wrote Gusta's letters, paid her bills, balanced her checkbook, and helped her host small elegant parties several times a year. Joe Riddley and I got Christmas cards from Jed, so we knew when he finished Mercer Law School and joined a practice in Atlanta, but he never came back to Hopemore and Meriwether never, ever mentioned his name.

Clarinda snorted from where she was rolling out the biscuits. "Best sense you can talk to that girl is, tell her to move out of her grandmother's house and get a life. Prince Charming ain't gonna ride his white charger up Miss Gusta's steps, and he may not recognize she's a princess once she gets wrinkles."

"I'll tell her you said so."

Clarinda opened her mouth to say more when we heard tires crunch on our gravel drive and knew the reporter had arrived.

No taller than my five-foot-three and wearing a khaki skirt, yellow cotton sweater, and sandals, she scarcely looked old enough to be out of college. Silky auburn hair swung down her back halfway to her bottom. Only the wire-rimmed glasses perched on her pert nose and the expression in her brown eyes were businesslike. "I'm Kelly Keane"-she held out one slim hand-"from the Hopemore Statesman. It's such a pretty day. Could we talk on your porch?"

Hope County is located in that strip of Middle Georgia between I-20 and I-16, right on the edge of the gnat line, and while nobody knows why gnats come to a certain Georgia latitude and stop, Joe Riddley always said it's because they know our climate's the next best thing to heaven. That September day the grass and trees were dark, dark green and an egg yolk sun floated near one startling white cloud in a deep blue sky. As we carried brownies and glasses of tea to our screened side porch, bees buzzed, young birds sassed their parents in the manner of adolescents everywhere, and the air was thick with the scent of our old apple tree.

"This is lovely!" Ms. Keane exclaimed as she took a rocker and looked over our three acres of grass, trees, and flower beds.

"Why, thank you. Our son Ridd does most of the work. He loves to dig in the dirt, and we're too busy selling plants to have time to fool with them."

She poised her pen over a pad. "Now, you and Judge Yarbrough-" She turned so fiery red I nearly went for water to put her out.

"That's all right. People do that all the time. They still think of him as the real judge."

"Are you both lawyers?"

"Oh, no. In Georgia you don't have to be a lawyer to be a magistrate. The chief magistrate in each county is elected, and she or he appoints the rest. Most of us are part-timers, running our businesses while we serve. The state gives us training every year."

She checked a list of questions she'd brought. "How long have you all been married?"

"Married, or together?" From her expression, I knew she thought we'd lived in sin before getting hitched, so I hurried to set her straight. "Joe Riddley and I have been married forty-one years, but we've known each other nearly sixty. We met when I was four and he was six, when my daddy stopped by his daddy's hardware store for cotton seed and fertilizer. That's the same store we now own, Yarbrough's Feed, Seed and Nursery. But everybody already knows that."

"That's romantic." She turned a little pink. "I think your husband has physical therapy with a friend of mine. Darren Hernandez?"

"That's right." While she consulted her notes, I was thinking I'd have to ask Darren if he'd taken Kelly out. His love life could use some sprucing up-he was pining for a two-timing woman down in Dublin. Kelly lifted her head. "You have two sons, right? Ridd teaches at the high school and Walker owns an insurance company?"

"Yes. They grew up in this house, just like their daddy. He was born upstairs." When she looked around at the big blue house in astonishment, I surprised her some more. "Joe Riddley is the fourth-generation Yarbrough to live here. His great-granddaddy owned a sawmill and lumber company back before the War. He could afford to build big after General Sherman lit through town and created an unprecedented demand for lumber. The Civil War," I answered her puzzled look. "Sherman burned the houses."

"Oh. Well, it's a gorgeous house." Then she stepped out of her reporter shoes to ask, "But aren't you nervous, living way down a dirt road so far from the highway?"

"It's a gravel road." I spoke a mite tartly, thinking of the fortune we'd invested in gravel over the years. "And it's just half a mile. Besides, we've got good neighbors."

She wrinkled her forehead. "Just two other houses, and one of them is empty."

Considering that one owner of the place on the corner had been a killer and another a kook, empty was a vast improvement. I didn't want to go into that, however. "We love it down here. It's very quiet except for crickets, owls, and frogs."

"Oh." The way she kept tapping her toe on the floor, quiet wasn't something she valued. She peered at her questions again. "Did you always want to be a magistrate?"

"Heavens no. I think the main reason they chose me is because I went to magistrate school with Joe Riddley so many times, and have watched him do magistrate business for thirty years in our office. Our son Walker, though, swears the county appointed me so they could save money by recycling the Judge Yarbrough sign on our office door."

"Could you, uh, tell me something about your husband's, uh, accident? What happened, and how you, uh, felt?" She had prepared that question ahead of time and was still embarrassed to ask it. Most people were embarrassed to talk about Joe Riddley right then.

"It happened too fast for me to feel anything. Everything changed in less than a minute. One night in August Joe Riddley went down the road looking for our beagle, who'd escaped her pen. A killer thought Joe Riddley was on his trail, and shot him. Luckily Joe Riddley had bent toward Lulu at the time, so the bullet just grazed his head. The same man also shot Lulu."1

"You'd never know it." Across the lawn, Lulu was chasing a butterfly.

I chuckled. "That bullet turned her into the fastest three-legged beagle in Georgia."

"And your husband?"

How could I tell her that the bullet had turned Joe Riddley into a stranger? One evening I had a husband who was wise, gentle, funny, and occasionally grumpy, but who loved me more than life. When he woke up from his coma, I had a husband who could not read, who could not put words together in coherent sentences, who could not send signals to his legs to make them walk, who erupted in unexpected rages at the slightest thing, and who didn't even seem to like me most of the time. Sometimes he got so mad at me I was afraid of him.

That's not what I told Kelly Keane, of course.

"Joe Riddley's injury is mild compared to many," I said, quoting his doctor. "He ought to be back to normal eventually." I didn't add that "eventually" could seem like a very long time.

She wrote a pretty good article, except she never mentioned Yarbrough's Feed, Seed and Nursery and she quoted Walker about that dratted sign.

The next time I'd be in the paper would be in October, when Hiram Blaine was found dead in my dining room.

—from Who Invited the Deadman? by Patricia Houck Sprinkle, Copyright © July 2002, Signet, a member of Penguin Putnam, Inc., used by permission.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 19, 2012

    Love this series!

    I'm reading this entire series; I'm on #6 book right now.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 20, 2010

    A good beach read

    Who Invited The Dead Man lives up to its whimsical title. The characters are likable/distasteful as needed. The reader worries with McLaren as she struggles with the possibility that her husband or a friend has committed a murder. Humor and suspense are a good combination.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 5, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    The characters are off beat and funny

    This is thouroughly "southern" funny. I would recommend you start with the first book "How Did We lose Harriet" to get into the characters but any of this series will bring you up to date. I am slowing working my way through all ten books. Highly recommended for light reading.

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  • Posted April 1, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Was he really invited?

    MacLaren Yarborough is a very busy lady. Her husband, Joe Riddley, recovering from a gunshot wound to the head, requires her nearly constant attention while he is re-educated to learn to perform every day tasks. At the same time, MacLaren has to take care of the family business and is a town magistrate.
    To celebrate Joe Riddley's improvements and his 65th birthday, MacLaren throws a birthday party which ends up with an uninvited dead guest. Keeping the murder a secret while the party progresses, the judge manages to get the sheriff to start the investigation and keep her guests happy at the same time.
    This mystery is complex and yet simple. Some of the events are predictable and others are surprising. I thought it was tremendously woven to combine these aspects and it was sheer pleasure to read. I definitely need to find the first two in this series. 4 stars

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Strong character driven who-done-it

    Judge MacLaren Yarbrough has her hands full running Yarbrough¿s Feed, Seed, and Nursery, managing her magisterial duties, keeping care of her home and taking care of her husband Joe Riddley. Joe is recovering from a head injury and has to relearn how to care for himself as well as read and write. His memory is cloudy and he is prone to violent episodes. <P>To show their support for Joe, two hundred people come to his birthday party and he enjoyed it as much as a kid would. Only a very few knew that in the house was the body of a dead man, shot to death by a bullet to his head. The sheriff conspired with MacLaren to keep it quiet until the guests left and they succeeded. Once the investigation got underway, MacLaren does her best to find out who the killer is and to prove to the authorities that Joe had nothing to do with it. <P>Patricia Sprinkles has created a complex mystery with many viable suspects who had ample reason to see the victim dead. Life in a small southern town where everyone knows their neighbor and a stranger sticks out is seen as a positive thing. The heartache of living with someone who has undergone severe brain trauma is shown in agonizing detail and readers can¿t help but empathize with the protagonist for caring for her man. <P>Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 25, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

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