Fresh Meat: Smarty Bones by Carolyn Haines

Smarty Bones by Carolyn Haines is lucky number thirteen in the Sarah Booth Delaney humorous private eye series (available May 21, 2013).

 It wasn’t long ago that I was telling you how much I enjoyed reading the raucously entertaining Bonefire of the Vanities, the twelfth book in the Sarah Booth Delaney series written by Carolyn Haines. I will admit it can give the reader pause when a book is so much fun to read but is number twelve of a series. Will number thirteen prove to be unlucky or will the author move the story and characters along uproariously and at warp speed? But hey, this is Carolyn Haines and Sarah Booth Delaney we’re talking about. And don’t forget Sarah Booth’s best friend and partner in her private investigation business, Tinkie Bellcase Richmond. Not to mention Jitty, the resident Civil War-era ghost who lives at Sarah Booth’s ancestral home, Dalia House.

Fascinating as these ladies may be, I couldn’t imagine that the author would add the Lady in Red to the mix. While on a book tour, Carolyn Haines came across the Lady in Red, a corpse that was approximately one hundred years old when it was found buried in a Mississippi cemetery in 1969. The lady’s body had been preserved in alcohol and the rumors about her past were filled with mystery and legend. What better jumping off point for a paranormal, southern mystery?

So Ms. Haines took literary license and moved the corpse to Sarah Booth’s local cemetery in Zinnia, Mississippi. And, of course, a professor comes to town to demand an exhumation. Immediately, the professor stirs up trouble by claiming a link between the Lady in Red, Tinkie’s family, and a heinous crime. Sarah Booth tries to explain the coming havoc that Tinkie needs to expect, but the words just won’t come out.

“Well, what is it?” Patience exhausted, Tinkie put her hands on her hips. “You look like you’re constipated. Tell me or let me get dressed.”

“There’s a crazy bitch in town who claims the Lady in Red is a relative of Oscar’s and that she intended to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln. She’s a university professor and she’s come here to prove her theory.”

Tinkie’s cheeks turned pale, then flushed. I could see her body temperature rising with every passing second.

“Who is this person? Surely not someone from Ole Miss. The history professors there have far more breeding than to try to stitch together this ridiculous tale.”

“No, not Ole Miss.”

She caught the scent of the story. “Where the hell is she from then, and who is she?”

“Her name is Olive Twist. She’s a—”

I got no further. Tinkie burst into her tinkling trademark laughter. “You are pulling my leg, aren’t you? Olive Twist. What is she, a martini garnish?”

While Sarah Booth and Tinkie visit various county offices trying to prevent the exhumation, there are other matters afoot and quite soon a young associate of the professor is murdered. And then Sarah Booth’s fiancé, the dashing movie actor, Graf Milieu, goes missing.

Sarah Booth manages to unravel many of the tangled webs of the story, but she decides to avoid dragging Tinkie into parts of her investigation because she begins to suspect that relatives of Tinkie’s husband may be involved in criminal activity. But Sarah Booth still has helpers. There is a critical moment when Sarah Booth is exploring a lead and gets essential assistance from her adorable cat, Pluto, and her temperamental dog, Sweetie Pie.

If you need just a smidge more persuading that this is a series worth reading, Criminal Element has provided readers with terrific excerpts from Bone Appétit and Bones of a Feather, numbers ten and eleven in the series. This entire series is filled with mystery, humor and more than a touch of the romantic South. And, take it from me, no matter where you start in the series, number thirteen is not to be missed.

See more coverage of new releases in our Fresh Meat series.

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Terrie Farley Moran’s recent collection of short stories, THE AWARENESS and other deadly tales, is currently available in e-format for the Nook and for the Kindle. Terrie blogs at Women of Mystery  and is presently writing a cozy mystery novel set in Southwest Florida.


Read all posts by Terrie Farley Moran for Criminal Element.



  1. Deborah Lacy

    Looks like a great read. Thanks Terrie for another great post.

  2. Terrie Farley Moran

    @DeborahLacy, this series is laugh out loud funny. Every character –the regulars and those who seem to be written for this book only–add layer upon layer of fun and a bit of frolic. Well worth the time.

  3. Dorothy Hayes

    Sounds like fun and intriguing at the same time. Love the play on book titles. Thanks for the review, Terrie.

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