From New York Times bestselling author of A Cat in the Stacks mystery series, a novel about murder, fiction and the deep, deep South…
A Deep South Mystery (#2)
Recently retired from teaching high school English, Ernestine Carpenter freely admits that she's more than a bit nosy. Ernie—(as she's called by her nearest and dearest) is also good at solving problems, and she's let it be known, amongst them, that she's willing to take on...interesting...jobs.
Mary Tucker McElroy, well-known in Southern literary circles as a generous patron. Six months earlier, her literary group had gathered for the Christmas festivities at Idlewild, Miss McElroy's ancestral home in north central Mississippi, and one guest, writer Sukey Lytton, turned up dead in the pond one day, an apparent, but suspicious suicide. Miss McElroy is convinced that Sukey Lytton was murdered, and she wants Ernie to help her figure out the guilty party.
But who can it be? Was it Lurleen Landry, best-selling author of Southern women's fiction? Did Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Russell Bertram kill her? Or was it his nasty, vindictive wife Alice? Maybe it was literary enfant terrible Brett Doran, who seems to have more than one secret to hide. Could Sukey Lytton's missing manuscript be the motive?
When the killer strikes again, it’s up to Ernie to save her friends and find the killer…or she may be next!
"A haunting mystery steeped in the richness of Southern culture." –Carolyn Hart, author of the Death on Demand and Henrie O mysteries
“Fans of the traditional stately home murder case can rejoice the genre is alive and well!” –Publishers Weekly
“The traditional mystery is not dead. Thanks to Dean James, it takes on new life in the New South, where (just like the Old South) ladies of a certain age are noticeably quirky, everyone is hiding a guilty secret, cooks know their way to your heart, and murderers are... almost... impossible to detect. James’s Closer Than the Bones is a fine variation on a fine tradition, and enjoyable from start to finish.”—Charlaine Harris
Fans of the traditional stately home murder case can rejoice the genre is alive and well in James's second mystery (after 2000's Cruel as the Grave). If Idlewild, a Mississippi manse, had a butler, you could be sure he'd be the murderer. Mary Tucker McElroy, Idlewild's matriarch and a belle of iron, summons her prot g s ostensibly to help her with her memoirs. In truth, she suspects one is a killer. Six months before, Sukey Lytton, a young woman writer whose viciousness had endeared her to no one, drowned. Her death was declared a suicide, but Mary Tucker thinks otherwise. To help her find the guilty party she hires Ernestine Carpenter, a retired schoolteacher in whom 40 years teaching high school English have instilled an iron will of her own. The guests assemble a motley crew of disagreeable literati whose conversation turns the dinner table into an arena for verbal gladiatorial combat. Sukey, it seems, wrote a novel, which is now missing. In it, she revealed the guests' darkest secrets. Stately homes all have dark secrets, even if the ones here turn out to be relatively tame. The final disagreeable guest to arrive is a literary agent loathed by all. Most disagreeably, he has found Sukey's manuscript: The die is cast. Before long, bodies lie draped about like antimacassars. Ernestine is a determined, if not very plausible, sleuth; but then nothing is truly plausible in this book. Still, it's fun to revisit the old stately home. .