The Cart Before the Corpse: A Merry Abbot Mysteryby Carolyn McSparren
Famous southern carriage-horse trainer Hiram Lackland, a handsome widower, dies mysteriously after retiring to a farm outside Mossy Creek. His estranged daughter, Merry Abbott, also a horse trainer, arrives to settle his estate. But Merry quickly plunges into bit-chomping dilemmas when her father's friend and landlord, mystery-novel maven Peggy Caldwell, insists he was murdered. Before Merry can so much as snap a buggy rein, a handsome and annoying GBI investigator, Geoff Madison, is on her case. Then there's the troublesome donkey: Don Qui. Short for Don Quixote. And the fact that Hiram was teaching all of Mossy Creek's lonely women how to--ahem--drive his carriage. Can Merry rein in the truth? What kind of horse play was her rakish dad involved in, and why would someone want to giddy-yup him into an early grave?
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A little humor, a little mystery and a really good understanding of equine and human behavior makes McSperran's books just delightfully fun. This one starts out as a "grabber" and never lets go. Read and enjoy.
"The Cart Before the Corpse" by Carolyn McSparren is a new spin-off book of the Mossy Creek Hometown series. Having not read those books I was a bit afraid I'd find myself out of my depth before I even have a chance to get started. I was happily mistaken - you don't need to know one single thing about the series this spins off from to pick up the reins and start in on this new series. I love horses and reading about their handling and various competitions, equipage, grooming, and the like, but I'm not terribly knowledgeable about the proper terms...until now. This book doesn't assume that you come from the world of horse shows, driving and carriages but it also doesn't "talk down" to the reader to explain things. The explanations all fit in very well without breaking the flow of the story and I know a lot more now than I did about it all. For some reason I had a preconceived notion that the book would be in a bit more of a "primitive" setting. It wasn't that way at all - much to my delight - I like a good historical or "primitive" set book, but I generally prefer to not mix those with my mystery/investigative reading. Merry is a strong female character, if you like your female characters to be simpering "let the guy take the lead and sweep her off her feet and solve her problems" types, this is probably not the book for you. She's not so strong that she doesn't have emotions, break down, cry or freak out, but she handles what must be done first, then falls apart if she feels she needs to. She just wants to do the best she can in the face of her fathers death, to do right by what he was trying to accomplish near the end of his life, to find out who killed him, why he was killed, and somehow figure out what to do now that she can't ever truly reconcile with her father now that she's finally reached the point in life when she's ready to allow him back into her life. In addition to Merry, the other primary characters are well developed and at points during the novel get to tell things from their point of view. While primarily from Merry's viewpoint, you do occasionally get a glimpse of what others are doing - this can help advance the storyline while keeping Merry out of the loop of the ongoing police investigation and further "fleshing out" who these other characters are when they're away from Merry from their own standpoint. The sections are all clearly marked with who's point of view it's being told from, so there is little to no confusion about the sudden switches in locale and method of thinking about the investigation. I am definitely looking forward to more books in this new spin-off series (as well as picking up the previous Mossy Creek Hometown series), this book definitely has left me wanting to read more about Mossy Creek's inhabitants.
In the middle of a horse show, a runaway horse frantically races to get a carriage hitched to him off. Soon afterward Merry Abbott receives a call informing her that her famous southern carriage-horse trainer Hiram Lackland is dead. After years of estrangement they were finally finding their way back to one another but his death ends any chance of full reconciliation. She drives to Mossy Creek where he lived in an apartment he rented from Peggy Caldwell, who takes Merry under her wing. She knows her late dad had started a horse farm giving driving lessons to lonely females. The local sheriff calls Hiram's death an unfortunate accident, but Peggy insists he was murdered over the use of his land. Peggy persuades Merry and Police Chief Amos Reardon that a homicide occurred. The Chief claims jurisdiction and asks GBI investigator Geoff Madison to lead the inquiry. The case proves complex and convoluted as the victim's records are missing and evidence that someone is looking for them judging by the vreak0in at Hiram's house. Whoever this culprit is, he or she is dead serious as potentially harmful incidents occur to Peggy and Merry. Although the two women knew each other before Hiram's death, they become friends afterward as Peggy helps Merry with the funeral arrangement, going through the deceased's apartment, and helping with the horse farm, In other words Peggy is a supporting buddy, a trademark theme of the charming Mossy Creek saga.. Merry does not frighten easily, but instead turns angrily calm towards her unknown adversary. THE CART BEFORE THE CORPSE is a delightful cozy filled with humor, poignancy and danger as Carolyn McSparren spins Mossy Creek into a radically different direction. Harriet Klausner