She may be a Mississippi belle, but Sarah Booth Delaney is no pampered daddy’s girl. Unwed and over thirty, Sarah has her own set of problems--like coping with regular hauntings by her great-great-grandmother’s nanny, a busybody of a ghost who’s set on marrying her off to the first suitor who comes calling. But when an old friend is in trouble, Sarah Booth doesn’t hesitate to get involved. Splintered Bones Eulalee McBride has confessed to murdering her husband...and she wants Sarah to dig up the dirt on the violent scalawag to prove he got what he deserved. Sarah Booth suspects that her friend is lying through her pearly whites...but why? There’s certainly no lack of suspects in Zinnia, Mississippi, including Bud Lynch, a horse trainer who arouses killer lust in the town’s women. As Sarah Booth begins to put together the pieces of the case, a killer is preparing to strike again. And this time it could send one late-blooming southern sleuth into an early grave.
Described on the somewhat staid cover as "a mystery from the Mississippi Delta," Haines's third Southern cozy (first in hardcover) is heavy on the cornpone, but is saved from the totally ridiculous by a hearty leavening of laughter. Sarah Booth Delaney and her cohorts, Tinkie Richmond and Cece Dee Falcon (formerly Cecil but that's for another story) band together to save friend and horse breeder Eulalee "Lee" McBride from a first-degree murder rap. Lee has confessed to the murder of her loutish husband, Kemper Fuquar, in order to save her mixed-up 14-year-old daughter, Kip Fuquar, from the charge. The sheriff is hard-put to find a woman any woman on the outlying magnolia-scented estates who didn't have a motive to crush Kemper's skull, then sic Avenger, a temperamental show horse, on the rotter. When she's not busy being a PI, Sarah Booth stays busy playing with her red tick hound, Sweetie Pie; talking to a resident ghost, Jitty, in her antebellum mansion; reluctantly scouring the area for a date to the hunt ball; baby-sitting for a willful Kip; and reading Kinky Friedman books. Sarah Booth keeps up with her friends' lipstick and nail polish colors, and even goes along with having Sweetie Pie's hair dyed brown from its graying shade. The author's long on accent, if short on clues that help elucidate the mystery. But Haines (Them Bones) keeps her sense of humor throughout, holding the reader's attention and internal laugh track right down to the last snicker. Agent, Marion Young.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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February 03, 2003
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Excerpt from Splintered Bones by Carolyn Haines
Sometime around 1895 in America, Negroes were spreading out and up from the hard past of the poor South seeking food and survival. Among them were a man and woman with four young children: two, three, four, and five years old. The traveling was hard and they were often hungry. They reached what seemed to them to be a large city in Oklahoma . . . and stopped. They had to stop because the mother did not have another step in her feet. She could not bear to drag her children another step.
The husband left them behind, near a small river, as he went to seek a Negro person to get information about a place for his family to sleep a few days and, perhaps, a job. They did not have a morsel of food. He found an old couple who were sharecroppers and worked a piece of land on another man's property. The old couple had only a small room and kitchen they lived in, a small shed for tools and a mule.
Used to seeing such troubles, even having had them themselves, they allowed the man to bring his family into the shed for the little warmth and protection it offered from the cold nights. The old farmers could not, in their heart, allow the sad, bedraggled, unfed and unrested children go hungry and tired. They took some greens and a few potatoes from their garden. The tired mother wanted to help, but was shooed away by the old wife who cooked for the family, her own memories roiling around in her mind. They had no meat to share. Her two chickens were for eggs to sell.
The traveling family arranged themselves against the walls and on the floor in the farmer's small, and now crowded, kitchen for a meal. Then they were situated in the shed to sleep with what worn quilts and rags the old couple could spare. The old woman grimly smiled and said, "I sewn these here'n quiltes myse'f," as she handed them to the wife. Then the old wife took the two youngest children into her kitchen and laid them down on pallets beside the burning stove to keep them from the cold of the night in the shed. The exhausted husband and the farmer talked into the night about the town and work for Negroes there.
Awakening in the morning to the crow of a rooster, the still tired husband, stiff with cold in the shed, slowly removed the ragged quilt from his self. No need to dress. He had not undressed. The farmer took him, walking, to the white man who owned the land. The white man said, "Your woman can work 'round the house and fields with my wife and you can take that ole barn yonder, close up some of them holes in it, and make a home for your family til harvest. People always leavin', movin' on, so there prob'ly will be a house and some land free 'bout that time and you can move and go to work for yourself. Til then, you can work here for food and shelter for your family."
"Thank ya, suh. Mighty kind'a you."
"We ain't got no lotta food, now, but we share." The white man smiled.
"No pay, suh?"
The white farmer smiled, "Not none as I know of . . . yet. Maybe later on. We got to see what kind of workin' man you are. You want it?"
"I'll take it, suh. Thank you kindly."
So that's the way things went and the husband was able to shelter his family and feed them . . . a little. Too tired and disheartened to move on, the husband thought, "At least this ain't Mississippi!"
Things turned out exactly as the old farmer had said they might after he had introduced his new friend to the owner-boss. When sharecropper people moved out of a little piece of shack on a little piece of the owner's land, the owner let the new family move in it to work the land.
They took the sharecropper job, intending to move on to better things when things got better. But life being what it is sometimes, they ended up staying in that place for thirty years . . . until the husband died from overwork and overworry. They had changed shacks a few times, but they never did get their own piece of land or build their own house as the man and his wife had dreamed of doing; living on their own place.
Their eldest boy moved on when he was sixteen. The next oldest, a girl, married at fourteen and moved on. The next child, a girl named Eula, did the same. (Eula would be my great-grandmother.) The youngest child stayed in the place they called "home" around his mother. He was a little retarded from his mother being undernourished and having babies so close together. In the end the two, widowed mother and retarded son, moved in with a friend who needed the little help they could provide. There is something about warm soil that connects the past and future into the present. The earth is female in the truest sense of the word. Life springs from it. It is the power of the feminine, the base of creation. For a Delaney, land is the source of family and heritage. For me, Sarah Booth Delaney, the last of this old Southern family, the rich soil of the Mississippi Delta holds the promise of seed and growth--the fecundity that my own womb has been denied. Or at least denied for the moment.