The folks on the Broward's Rock library board want to declare their independence from new member, retired Brigadier General Charlton "Bud" Hatch. A man accustomed to being in charge, Hatch has commandeered the Fourth of July Festival, a benefit for the library, and has maneuvered it away from its original theme, a history of South Carolina women, transforming it into his own testosterone-laden vision, "Points of Patriotism."
Hatch's takeover attitude has alienated every woman in town, including good-natured Annie. But she finds it difficult to ignore him during the crowded patriotic festival -- especially wahen he's shot dead before her eyes.
With a list of likely suspects that could fill Town Hall, Annie and Max are stunned when the police arrest an innocent young man who recently quarreled with the malevolent martinet. In the spirit of '76, the determined Darlings take up the suspect's cause and forge a campaign to identify the party that dispatched Hatch.
About 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.
Read an Excerpt
Annie Laurance Darling moved swiftly. Or as swiftly as she could propel her body through air thicker than congealing Jell-O. Her hair curled in tendrils. Her skin felt as moist as pond scum. If it got any more humid, Calcutta would be a resort in comparison. She thought longingly of cool air. Maybe she would read The Yellow Room by Mary Roberts Rinehart. It was always cool in Maine. Rinehart's heroine shivered. And lit fires.
Why had she ever come to this island where the summer air was heavier than mercury? She had a sudden, unsettling, cold sensation. She knew why she'd come to the land of no-see-ums, swamps and fragrant magnolias. She'd come to Broward's Rock a few years earlier because she was running away from a close encounter with one Maxwell Darling. How weird! What if Max hadn't, in his own imperturbable, incredibly determined way, followed her? What if now she wasn't Annie Laurance Darling, but just Annie Laurance? It would be a cold world indeed. She felt like flinging out her arms and embracing the humid, spongy air. What did a little heat matter?
Annie stopped at the door of her store and grinned. What could be better than a nice hot day in her own very happy corner of the world? Dear Max. And her wonderful store. She studied the name with pleasure -- DEATH ON DEMAND -- in tasteful gold letters. Without doubt it was the finest name for the finest mystery bookstore east of Atlanta. Smaller letters, also in gold, announced: "Annie Laurance Darling, Prop." She felt warm all over, a nice, comfortable, happy inner warmth that had nothingto do with humidity. Max. Her store. Her books. Hers to enjoy. It would, in fact, be an utterly lovely day -- except for the library board. She had tried to ignore a niggling sense of uneasiness all day. But her nerves quivered like snapping flags heralding a coming storm. The solution was obvious. Easy. No. She knew how to say no. That was all that was required to stay free of the controversy swirling around the library.
Determinedly, she stared at the Death on Demand window. She didn't really need to look at the window. After all, she'd put in the new display only last week. But it was clever, if she said so herself: a cherry-and-green-striped parasol open behind a mound of golden sand, a tipped-over beach bucket with a shower of brightly colored paperbacks spilling out -- Miss Zukas and the Library Murders by Jo Dereske, Something's Cooking by Joanne Pence, Murder on a Girls' Night Out by Anne George, Memory Can Be Murder by Elizabeth Daniels Squire, and Blooming Murder by Jean Hager.
Good mysteries. Fun mysteries. And that's what summer was all about: snow cones and walking fast on hot sand to plunge into cool water and mounds of mysteries; buckets of clams and kissing in the moonlight and piles of paperbacks with smoking guns or blood-dripping daggers on front covers, yellow, red and blue crime scenes on back covers.
Of course, those colorful covers were declasse today. But Paperback mysteries published in the forties and fifties, oh, what great back covers they had -- drawings of the manor house, sketches of the library where X marked the spot, maps of the village showing the rectory and the church, the graveyard and the shops along the high street. And, even more fun, the reader often found inside an equally colorful description of the book's contents, such as:
What This Mystery's About --
A bloodstained handkerchief.
The reason the cat meowed at midnight.
A dog named Petunia.
The contents of the rosewood box.
A woman with one husband, two lovers, and an angry sister.
A gun, a dagger, and a missing rhinoceros.
Golly, those were the great days of the mystery. And she always remembered Uncle Ambrose when she thought about old, great mysteries. Death on Demand had been his store originally, a smaller, much more masculine retreat. He'd welcomed his sister's daughter there every summer through her childhood and carefully chosen books for her. The Ivory Dagger by Patricia Wentworth, The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey, The Secret Vanguard by Michael Innes, offering them with a gruff "Think you'll like these." Like them! She'd loved every sentence, every paragraph, every page. And especially the wonderful mysteries with maps on the back cover...For a moment, Annie forgot all about the heat and the boxes of books to be unpacked and the mouse heads that Dorothy L. kept depositing on the kitchen steps at home and the increasing bitterness of the schism on the library board. She stood with a finger to her lip, wondering if anyone had a complete collection of all the Dell Mysteries with crime maps on the back. Now that would be --
Annie didn't turn at the swift, sharp clatter of shoes on the boardwalk. She recognized the voice despite its unaccustomed ferocity. Annie knew the fury wasn't directed at her. Nonetheless, she thought plaintively, this wasn't what summer was all about. But, as she took a deep breath and practiced saying no in her mind, this is what mysteries were all about -- anger, power, and fractured relationships. Annie wanted to contain misery between the bright covers of books where everything came out right in the end.
Henny Brawley, Annie's best customer, a retired teacher, and a mainstay of the Broward's Rock library board, didn't bother with a salutation. Her angular face sharp-edged as a red-tailed hawk diving for a rat, Henny yanked open the door to Death on Demand and stalked inside.
Annie followed, welcoming the initially icy waft of air-conditioning that almost instantly seemed tepid, proof indeed of the summer heat, into the nineties and climbing.Yankee Doodle 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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