Walking on My Grave by Carolyn Hart is the 26th and final Death on Demand Mystery, where bookseller Annie Darling learns murder and money go hand in hand.
New York Times-bestselling and Pulitzer Prize-nominated author Carolyn Hart returns with Walking on My Grave—the 26th and final entry in her beloved, critically acclaimed Death on Demand series.
Annie Darling, owner of Broward’s Rock’s Death on Demand mystery bookshop, has a challenge on her hands for the quiet months of winter: preparing three chapbooks written by her trio of crime-solving cohorts—novelist Emma Clyde, do-gooder Henny Brawley, and mother-in-law Laurel Darling Roethke—for printing. The welcome solitude of that project is broken when fellow islander Ves Roundtree pays Annie an unexpected visit and confides that she’s the victim of an attempted murder made to appear as if an accident. Despite a moment of hesitancy, fiercely loyal and justice-minded Annie pledges allegiance to her aggrieved friend.
A local business owner herself, Ves was made a very wealthy woman as the result of her brother’s death; he entrusted her with his estate, the remains of which are to be divided among a designated group of beneficiaries upon Ves’s own passing. But what neither sibling anticipated was the desperation among those individuals for immediate financial relief—and the sinister acts that at least one of them would perpetrate to expedite their inheritance.
Indeed, Ves recently hosted a dinner gathering for this motley crew—struggling artist Katherine Farley and her recently handicapped husband, Bob; young Jane Wilson and her opportunistic suitor, Tim Holt; playboy Curt Roundtree and his scandalized mother, Gretchen; indebted financial adviser Adam Nash; and widower Fred Butler—only to come away feeling that she’d been marked for death. As she tells Annie:
“My mother always said when out of nowhere you suddenly feel scared, can’t breathe, sense darkness and danger, when you feel like that, someone is walking on your grave. That’s what happened to me when I came in the dining room with the tray that night. Someone was looking at me and seeing me dead, wanting me dead. Walking on my grave.”
Annie diligently enlists her husband, the perpetually playful Max—who owns/operates Confidential Commissions, a business designed to help solve “odd and unusual problems”—in investigating the crime, as well as Emma, Henny, and Laurel, all of whom have proved skilled enough as amateur sleuths to ask pointed questions without raising undue suspicion. But their search for answers reveals no lack of means, motives, or opportunities in the transgression against Ves, and two subsequent deaths indicate that the killer(s) among them has only just begun. Further confounding matters is the discovery that Ves has gone missing, a few smears of blood and an overturned chair the only clues to her fate.
Hart offsets the seriousness of this sordid affair (which is resolved in a satisfying Christie-like denouement) with an engaging cast of core characters and an inviting sense of place. Further, she pays loving homage to genre lore and luminaries, past and present, by virtue of Annie & Co.’s indomitable reverie for all things mystery (which lends itself to author/book recommendations, trivia, quotable passages, etc.).
As an added bonus, the author includes the three aforementioned chapbooks—Classic Crime by Henny Brawley, Detecting Wisdom by Emma Clyde, and Merry Musings, Modest Maxims for Happiness by Laurel Darling Roethke—as an addendum to the story. They serve as a fitting capstone to the charming and insightful tidbits that have elevated this series throughout its decades-long run.
With more than 60 suspense novels to her name—and an abundance of accolades and achievements that include winning multiple Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity Awards and co-founding Sisters in Crime—the author is an undisputed maven of mystery. Despite having nothing left to prove, Walking on My Grave is incontrovertible evidence of one simple fact: You’ve gotta have Hart.
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John Valeri wrote the popular Hartford Books Examiner column for Examiner.com from 2009 – 2016. He can be found online at www.johnbvaleri.com and is featured in the Halloween-themed anthology Tricks and Treats, now available from Books & Boos Press.