Sticks and Bones by Carolyn Haines is the 17th book in the Sarah Booth Delaney Mystery series (available May 16, 2017).
Sticks and Bones is the 17th book in the freewheeling Sarah Booth Delaney series written by Carolyn Haines, and I have read every single one of them. Some twice. I will quickly confess that I find Sarah Booth; her best friend and partner in the Delaney Detective Agency, Tinkie Bellcase Richmond; and the sometimes annoying but always clever Civil War-era ghost, Jitty, to be laugh-out-loud funny each time I follow one of their adventures.
Before I tell you about their latest adventure, I encourage you to click through to Adam Wagner’s GIFnotes for an engaging visual introduction to Sticks and Bones.
Now, back to the book. We meet Sarah Booth in her home, the very grand Dalia House in Zinnia, Mississippi, as she is dressing in white tulle, diamonds, and pearls for a gala New Year Celebration. She is doing a final check in the mirror and recognizing perfection when she sees it, and then:
“Glamour is nothing without intrigue, Sarah Booth Delaney.” A husky voice comes from the doorway.
Without looking I know it is Jitty, the ghost who shares the Delaney family home with me. During the Civil War, Jitty was a nanny, but since she’s taken up residence at Dahlia House with me, she is more of a bane. Nurturing is far down her list of talents—way behind tormenting, torturing, annoying, bossing, heckling … Did I say bossing?
It’s not clear whether Jitty is being deliberately irritating or actually trying to give Sarah Booth a message. Jitty’s appearance as Greta Garbo could be a symbol of an imminent problem or her idea of New Year’s Eve attire and mean nothing at all.
Leaving Jitty behind, Sarah Booth attends a New Year’s party that is both elegant and amusing until the uninvited Frangelica “Sister” McFee arrives. And since she and Tinkie are arch enemies, well, I will let you listen in:
“Get out.” Tinkie squared her shoulders and walked over to Sister. “Get out right this minute.”
“Or you’ll do what, Stinky? Gas me to death?” She laughed like a sweet Southern belle. “You’re too cute.”
She reached to pinch my partner’s cheek, and Tinkie snapped. Her teeth clicked on empty air with an audible sound as she tried to bite Sister’s hand.
“Stinky and rabid,” Sister said with a merry laugh. “Good to know you grew into my predictions.”
Before an actual fist fight breaks out between the two (and for a moment I thought that was a real possibility), cooler heads prevail, and Sister (as she is called by the residents of Zinnia) is escorted from the premise by the host in a sort of “here’s your hat, what’s your hurry” coated with just enough Southern charm to not be totally rude.
A well-known author, Sister has written a book about an accident that took the lives of her mother and brother years ago. If Sister McFee is back in town, the rumor must be true: there is a movie to be made, and Zinnia—scene of the accident—will now become a real live film set.
In very short order, the dashing movie director Marco St. John hires Sarah Booth to investigate the long-ago accident. He wants to be very sure that the story of the accident as related in Sister’s book is exactly how things happened.
Sarah Booth and Tinkie begin poking around, and before long Tinkie is injured when someone shoots a tire of the car she is riding in. So that Sarah Booth doesn’t feel left out, a dead body is dumped right on her lawn. Pretty strong warnings, I’d say. Go away and stay away.
But Sarah Booth is determined to keep probing until the mystery of the accident is solved. And what an astonishing solution it is! I promise that from start to finish you will find Sticks and Bones to be a treat of a read. And like me, you will be breathlessly waiting for number 18!
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Winner of both the Agatha and the Derringer, Terrie Farley Moran is the author of the beachside Read 'Em and Eat cozy mystery series; co-author of Laura Childs’s Scrapbooking mystery series; and has published numerous short stories. Her web address is www.terriefarleymoran.com