Will the lawyer and the shop girl get married?
The latest entry in the Consignment Shop Mystery series begins with a proposal as Walker Boone proposes to Reagan Summerside. It’s been about two weeks since the last book, Demise in Denim, ended with Walker being cleared as a suspect in a murder case that began in the novella, Dead Man Walker.
It doesn’t take long for Reagan to say yes, but then she’s whisked off to the wake of Willie Fishbine. Her larger-than-life Aunt KiKi enlists Reagan’s presence to attend the memorial arranged by “professional mourners” the Abbott sisters who need a few more live bodies at the event. Unfortunately a dead body turns up in a nearby alley.
As Reagan, who happens to find the body, explains, “The Abbott sisters’ Caddy is parked in an alley, and there’s a lady, old best I could tell, in the back seat sleeping with her eyes open, so that king of means she’s … dead.” When Reagan brings Boone to the alley behind the Soap Box Cleaners, however, the “Caddy-plus-dead-person” is gone.
Naturally Reagan feels the need to get involved ostensibly to help out the Abbott sisters, Elsie and Annie Fritz.
In what quite possibly I think is my favorite exchange of the series to date, when Reagan’s mother learns of her daughter’s discovery, she says, “You’ve only been engaged three hours. How in the world does this keep happening to you? Normal people don’t have bodies popping up in their lives like this except for that Jessica Fletcher woman in Cabot Cove. I can’t understand why anyone in their right mind would want to be her friend. They all wind up dead, and now you’re getting to be the same way.”
Of course, said body is currently missing. Reagan tracks down the Abbott sisters’ Cadillac, but there’s no body (figuratively and literally) inside. But it’s not long before Reagan discovers one cruel joke: someone posed the body in the Prissy Fox window display!
Naturally, Reagan runs next door for help, in the form of Aunt KiKi, but they return to the consignment shop and find the body gone… again! Makes one wonder if it’s really a dead body or a narcoleptic old lady. That or we’ve entered a cozy mystery version of Weekend at Bernie’s.
Setting aside thoughts of the body (or not body), Reagan focuses on business matters related to her consignment shop and has an opportunity to potentially pick up some items from Willie Fishbine’s things left behind at his former residence at Sleepy Pines, a retirement community. While there, Reagan discovers two things. One, Willie’s relatives a bit bloodthirsty for an inheritance. Two, she finds a photo of a familiar “dead” face, Miss Bonnie Sue McGrath.
The mystery heats up when Willie Junior, grandson of the initial deceased, stops by the Prissy Fox to demand that Reagan find out who killed his grandfather, who had a peanut allergy. A subsequent, closer look at Willie’s body reveals a telltale rash that suggests Willie Junior’s suspicions may be correct. Then Bonnie Sue’s corpse is discovered in a flower garden. Turns out she and Willie were both residents at Sleepy Pines. But was there another connection between the two?
Reagan convinces KiKi to go undercover at the Pines to find out. Turns out Willie may have been running investment scams, making enemies in the process.
The story moves at a breakneck pace, perhaps too much so, but holds the reader’s interest until the end. The mystery plot here may not be as strong as previous installments, but the characters—often quirky—are as lively and entertaining as ever.
In particular, KiKi’s “undercover” work, sleuthing at the Pines, was too funny and might leave some hoping for future narration from her perspective in a couple chapters or perhaps a novella à la Dead Man Walker, in which Walker Boone served as narrator.
Speaking of Walker, there’s a fun image conjured up by descriptions of Boone at the Prissy Fox “behind the counter writing up a sale” with “a string of dreamy-eyed customers” patiently waiting in line to check out.” And more moments included for fans of the Reagan/Walker romance.
As always, there’s some great lines in the story. When Reagan mentions the need to tell her mother that she’s accepted Walker’s proposal, he counters that mom already knows, saying, “It’s Savannah, the land of dishing-the-dirt and all things fried.”
Later, after hearing KiKi’s misadventure involving a fountain, Reagan comments, “Sounds like the ghost of martinis past and present.”
In fact, several martini recipes are included at books end for enthusiasts to try. For a tart treat, I suggest the Lemon Drop or Apple Martini, but all the selections are worth trying.
Lethal in Old Lace is the sixth book in the Consignment Shop Mystery series. The book, available in hardcover and ebook, is due out today (March 13, 2018). This hijinks-filled cozy mystery is likely to appeal to fans of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series. Be sure to read my previous reviews of the Consignments Shop mysteries, Pearls and Poison and Demise in Denim; a live read of Dead Man Walker; and an interview with the author Duffy Brown.