Things that go bump in the Bayou...
For bookseller and amateur sleuth Claire Malloy getting a root canal beats going to a Malloy family reunion. But it is time her fifteen-year-old daughter Caron visits her deceased father's relatives. Now Claire and Caron have arrived at Malloy Manor, a run-down mansion in Louisiana's bayou country...where the mosquitoes are big enough to barbecue, the swamp is crawling with alligators, the butler looks like he stepped out of a teen slasher movie, and the wheelchair-bound matriarch, Miss Justicia, races around the grounds cackling like a loon.
It's the perfect setting-for a murder. Before a night has passed, Miss Justicia is sleeping with the fishes. The police call it a "tragic accident." Caron is all for calling a cab. But Claire wants to have a closer look at her "loving" relatives since she has a hunch leaving Malloy Manor isn't going to be all that easy...and neither is staying alive.
With deep affection and a sure, light touch, Hess, author also of the Maggody series, portrays characters ranging from a heavy metal aficionado to a wildly eccentric Southern lady of a certain age in this thoroughly modern gothic tale. Bookstore owner/sleuth Claire Malloy, encountered most recently in Roll Over and Play Dead , finds little but trouble when she and teenage daughter Caron attend the 80th birthday celebration of Miss Justicia, mother of Claire's late husband, at the family manor in the Louisiana bayous. Feuding relatives, mysterious hints about inheritances and terrible food begin a ghastly first night that will also include the drowning of the matriarch after she is seen careening drunkenly about the garden in her powered wheelchair. Various family members, among them Claire's brother-in-law, his grasping children and a socialite cousin with designs on the family mansion, look for a missing will while striving to keep up appearances, as Claire tries to conduct what she is certain is a murder investigation. While at times Hess draws her characters too broadly, her well-paced and well-plotted stories still delight.