Books by Barbara Neely

BLANCHE PASSES GO by Barbara Neely
Released: July 10, 2000

"A trenchantly written feminist manifesto for women of color, women who've survived abuse, and men who don't mind having their hackles raised."
Fed up with housecleaning and her employers' genteel condescension in Boston (Blanche Cleans Up, 1998, etc.), Blanche White takes her attitude and hard-won independence back home to Farleigh, North Carolina, where she joins her best buddy Ardell in her catering business, tentatively enters a relationship with Thelvin, a widowed train conductor, and tries to come to terms with David Palmer, the man who raped her years ago, though she had been too terrified to report it. She's barely unpacked this excess baggage when an abused woman dies, perhaps at Palmer's hands, and his racist, money-grubbing sister gets engaged to the rich but mentally retarded Mumsfield, whose kin want Blanche to dig up dirt that will unring the threatened wedding bells. Praying to her ancestors that the Palmers are guilty of every misdeed committed in Farleigh, Blanche is so avid for success that she misinterprets clues, leading to more deaths, including Palmer's on a sharply curved road. Even after his gratifying departure, ingrained southern racism, persistent sexism, and a long-overdue mother-daughter confrontation almost get the better of her before this sad tale of female suffering comes to an end. Read full book review >
BLANCHE CLEANS UP by Barbara Neely
Released: April 1, 1998

Good thing Blanche White's housekeeping stint for right-wing gubernatorial hopeful Allister Brindle (a would-be politician who doesn't know anything about the Massachusetts electorate) is only temporary. Blanche, not one to suffer fools gladly, has already stuck her sharp elbow into visiting Rev. Maurice Samuelson's rib after hearing his perfidious promise to deliver the Uncle Toms and Aunt Jemimas in his flock to Brindle, and she's connived with Ray-Ray Brown, the unwelcome son of the Brindles' regular housekeeper, to keep quiet about a menacing note he's delivered to Brindle. But Blanche's position in the household is still more secure than that of Felicia Brindle's sculpted personal trainer, Saxe Winton, or of Ray-Ray himself. Both of them are murdered, with more corpses still in the offing, as Brindle and his cohorts work themselves into a frenzy over a compromising videotape unlikely to endear him to the conservative voters he's counting on. It's a case that plays beautifully to the strengths Blanche showed in her first two novels (Blanche Among the Talented Tenth, 1994, etc.): poking around, getting underfoot, and displaying maximum attitude as she solves the tiny mystery en route to sticking it to the Man. The title says it all. (Author tour) Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 14, 1994

Segregation is alive and well at Maine's exclusive Amber Cove seaside resort. But it's segregation between the Insiders—light- skinned African-American professionals like pioneering feminist Mattie Harris, her godson Hank (an MIT history professor), and the nervously proper Tatterson family—and the Outsiders, dark-skinned upstarts like Tina Jackson, the dreadlocked beauty involved with Durant Tatterson, and Blanche White, the caustic domestic who, relocated from North Carolina to Boston, thinks she is taking a vacation from detective work (Blanche on the Lam, 1992). No such luck: Not only was bullying Insider gossip Faith Brown electrocuted in her bathtub the night before Blanche arrived, but Hank has vanished into the Atlantic, leaving behind a note admitting that he killed her. So where's the mystery? In Faith's purse, where Blanche, goaded by an intruder who unwisely thought to discourage her, finds a cache of papers whose nasty secrets make it clear that Faith was a lot more vicious than she looked—and that certain Insiders are protecting much more than their social standing. Even so, tracking down the victims of Faith's treachery makes for a pretty limp mystery that, as in Blanche's debut, takes a back seat to an acerbic portrait of class infighting at its most corrosive. Read full book review >
BLANCHE ON THE LAM by Barbara Neely
Released: Feb. 4, 1992

Blanche, a street-smart black domestic on the run from the sheriff for passing a bad check (again), winds up cooking and caring for edgy Miz Grace, her husband Everett, her wealthy, reclusive Aunt Emmeline, and her somewhat retarded Cousin Mumsfield at their summer home in Hokeysville, North Carolina—in a quirky mystery debut that pits Blanche against a Faulknerian cast of oddballs who may be trying to kill each other off to claim a southern fortune. Did Everett murder his first wife for her money, and does he have similar plans for his second? Is Grace trying to con her feeble auntie into signing a new will discounting Mumsfield and exalting her? Does auntie have a drinking problem, or is she the sweet, old woman Mumsfield remembers? Is the sheriff blackmailing Everett or vice versa? As Blanche wrestles with these problems, including what's in the cellar of the family's winter home, she communes telepathically with Mumsfield, phones home regularly to make sure her Mama and her two kids are all right, and ties in several other murders before heading off for the peace (she hopes) of Boston. Prickly view of class-clashes, race relations, and family foibles, in a somewhat forced, folk-talk style. Primarily for southern gothic aficionados. Read full book review >