A part from small-town feuds and church scandal, things have been so quiet in the little Arkansas town of Maggody that even police chief Arly Hanks has found time for a vacation. But she returns to find trouble brewing and tongues wagging at fever pitch. The local old-folks' home has been sold to a mysterious outsider, and overnight the place has been transformed into the Stonebridge Foundation, an exclusive rehabilitation center complete with a stone-faced guard who doesn't speak a word of English and an even nastier dog. Soon there are rumors flying of mental patients roaming the countryside at night, and every character in town is keeping a gun close at hand, just in case. Everyone is dying to know what goes on behind those inhospitable gates, with the exception of Arly, who has enough rural business to keep her satisfied.
When the beautiful young receptionist found drowned in the garden pool is identified as a local girl from nearby Farberville, it's clear the case may not only involve the suspicious characters who've recently moved to town, but also some of the citizens of Maggody, who may have a secret or two to hide themselves. There's the doctor who can't resist a dose of his own medicine and a roster of patients that reads like a who's who of tabloid headlines, as well as the local pastor who gets his spiritual inspiration with a little help from the sacramental wine, and the mayor's wife who makes it her business to know everything about everyone. Soon Arly finds herself on the trail of a killer and discovers she may be the only innocent person left in town.
When an unknown buyer quickly and covertly renovates what was once the local old folks' home, many of the 775 inhabitants of Maggody, Ark., are more than curious in Hess's delightful 15th Arly Hanks mystery (after 2004's Muletrain to Maggody). Rumors fly that the new Stonebridge Foundation, a posh rehabilitation center surrounded by a brick wall and protected by a Spanish-speaking guard and a mean dog, is a lunatic asylum. When a young woman is found drowned in a pond on the grounds, police chief Arly Hanks investigates with her customary aplomb and humor, aided by a less than supportive cast of helpers. Meanwhile, the quirky and lovable citizens of Maggody deal with matters in their own inimitable style. The addition of some far from perfect new characters helps keep this deservedly popular cozy series fresh. (Jan.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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Simon & Schuster
December 25, 2006
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Excerpt from Malpractice in Maggody by Joan Hess
"So what do you reckon they're doing?" asked Estelle as she nibbled pensively on a tuna salad sandwich. She and her best friend, Ruby Bee Hanks, were sitting in the front seat of Estelle's station wagon, which was parked under a sickly persimmon tree across the road from what had been, up until three days ago, the county old folks' home. Now bulldozers and backhoes were roaring all around the shabby building, spewing clouds of dust into the bleached blue sky. Dump trucks inched in and out of the surrounding pasture like gimpy dinosaurs, while jackhammers ripped into the asphalt driveway. Stacks of lumber were piled on the scruffy lawn.
Ruby Bee reached into the picnic basket for another deviled egg. "How many times are you aimin' to ask me that? Not one soul in town has any idea what they're doing, not even Mrs. Jim Bob. You'd think, what with her being the mayor's wife, that she'd know something, but she swears she doesn't. Dahlia's fit to be tied since the patients had to be moved out and she and Kevin had to take in her granny."
"I can't say that I blame her. I can't imagine what they'll do after the new baby comes. Eileen says the twins are a handful, running around like ferrets and getting into anything that's not locked up tighter'n a tick." She put her sandwich on the dashboard and refilled her cup with iced tea from a thermos. "Want some more?"
"Take a look at that," said Ruby Bee, ignoring the offer. "That must be the limousine Lottie and Eula saw yesterday evening. Lottie said she expected the president or somebody like that to climb out. Turned out to be an ordinary-looking man."
Estelle patted her beehive of red hair to make sure no bobby pins were dangling, then said, "What say we just drive right over there and ask him what he thinks he's doing, closing down the old folks' home like that? We should tell him right to his face what a terrible thing he did."
"Hush up," Ruby Bee whispered as she leaned forward. "He's getting out of the backseat."
"You think he can hear us all the way over here? Did Lottie say he was a superhero with X-ray hearing?"
"Well, he ain't wearing tights and a cape," Ruby Bee said drily. "Those sunglasses make him look suspicious, though."
Estelle snorted. "Maybe he's wearing them on account of it being sunny. I'd be wearing mine if I hadn't lost them at that flea market at Bugscuffle last week. I took 'em off and set 'em down for five seconds while I looked at a teapot. The next thing I know, they're gone. I think that old lady with the wart on her forehead scooped 'em up. I was of a mind to grab her and -- "
"I'd say he's more than six feet tall, wouldn't you? Nice silver hair, maybe in his fifties or a tad older, tanned like one of those Hollywood folks. The man that he's talking to must be the foreman."