Books by Nancy Bell

Nancy Bell began her publishing career in 1996 with the release of her first mystery, Biggie and the Poisoned Politician. She lives and works in Austin, Texas.


PAINT THE TOWN DEAD by Nancy Bell
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: Aug. 1, 2008

"Not even Crain's pleasant companionship can make up for the anemic mystery."
A small-town Texas judge has murder on his mind. Read full book review >
RESTORED TO DEATH by Nancy Bell
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: March 12, 2003

"Bell, whose other rural Texas series (Biggie and the Devil Diet, 2002, etc.) also makes hay of down-home stereotypes, is big on clichés but short on drama, cunning, and motivation. Skippable, to put it more mildly than the Wagon Wheel crowd ever would."
Post Oak, Texas, pop. 4,387, give or take a few corpses, is the sort of town where the nattering locals know lots of little secrets, but not all of them. They know, for instance, that Ron Hughes is having an affair with Wagon Wheel waitress Muriel; that Muriel's husband regularly beats her up; that the Rices, the town's most affluent couple, are also its stingiest; and that Judge Jackson Crain, a widower with a 13-year-old daughter, has lately been keeping company with newcomer Mandy de Alejandro, a historical preservationist temporarily assigned to Post Oak. But some secrets remain, such as who coshed and strangled poor Dora Hughes, the judge's sister-in-law; who killed in similar fashion a teenaged transient with a noose tattooed around her neck; which local preacher is fed up with fundraising and thinking of resigning; and whatever happened to the Rices' son, who up and left town years ago. While the womenfolk gossip over at the Knit Shop and the men speculate over coffee at the Wagon Wheel, a scruffy, bearded stalker is peering in windows and worse, until the poor soul descends into paranoid schizophrenia, and the judge and sheriff arrive just in time to save another victim. Read full book review >
BIGGIE AND THE DEVIL DIET by Nancy Bell
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: Nov. 1, 2002

"As flamboyantly folksy as usual (Biggie and the Quincy Host, 2001, etc.), with a plot whose holes are big enough to drive cattle through."
Fiona Wooten Weatherford, called Biggie by her 13-year-old grandson J.R. (when he's not busy looking around him and noticing girls for the very first time) and the rest of the meager population of Job's Crossing, Texas (when they're not busy saying, "Aw shucks," or chowing down anything that's fried), takes a deep breath, sheds a tear or two, and admits that a past indiscretion has come home to roost. The man of her teenage dreams, Rex Barnwell, has returned to the area with his pretty young wife Laura and opened the Bar-LB Ranch, a fat farm for husky adolescent gals. Biggie barely has time to tell the diabetic, bedridden Rex that their romance produced a son whose own son is now ogling his vet's pretty daughter before someone on the ranch puts poor Rex out of his misery with a well-placed bullet. The possibilities include his greedy daughter and son-in-law, his ranch foreman, his lawyer, the Bar-LB dietician, and even one of those thick-waisted young heifers who seems to have a special relationship with Rex's wife. Questions are asked. Barbecue is consumed. Horses are ridden in a show ring and beyond. And J.R., the young cad, invites two girls, one pretty, one not, to the prom. But not to fret: Biggie is up to all challenges. Read full book review >
BIGGIE AND THE QUINCY GHOST by Nancy Bell
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: Sept. 10, 2001

"A little social work, a little shopping, and a little shaking of Quincy family trees, all wound up with Biggie's folksy charm. Those without a taste for Gothic Lite, however, may want to pass."
Gothic trappings hang as heavy over Biggie Weatherford's latest outing as the Spanish moss Butch the florist uses for funeral arrangements. The grande dame of Job's Crossing, her 12-year-old grandson J.R., her household mainstays Rosebud and Willie Mae, and the Job's Crossing Historical Society set out for the town of Quincy to take a local history seminar conducted by the Quincy Historical Society. Biggie (Biggie and the Meddlesome Mailman, 1999, etc.) promises a reluctant J.R. that a "genu-wine" ghost haunts the hotel. Ghost or not, a corpse soon appears: Annabeth Baugh, a beautiful hotel employee from a poor "swamp" family, found floating in a fountain with a knife in her chest. Then appendicitis lays up Sheriff Dugger, who, already lumbered with a deputy several notches below Barney Fife, asks Biggie to help. She starts by investigating Annabeth's beau, Brian Quincy, and his relatives in the town's founding family. Brian's mother Mary Ann, a hotel manager, is being ardently pursued by traveling coffin-salesman Lew Masters. Young Emily Faye LaRue, the Quincy Historical Society secretary who pines after Brian, has a reputation worse than her handwriting. But Quincy's present romances are dominated by Quincy's past, as J.R. reveals when he discovers an ancient clue in spry old Lawyer Fitzgerald's museum. Biggie mulls it all over while the more active J.R. chases ghosts through the hotel and gets thrown to the alligators. Read full book review >
BIGGIE AND THE MEDDLESOME MAILMAN by Nancy Bell
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: Nov. 1, 1999

Biggie And The Meddlesome Mailman ($22.95; Nov.; 240 pp.; 0-312-20880-4): Who better than to serve as the latest homicide victim in the rapidly emptying hamlet of Job's Crossing, Texas, than Luther Abernathy, who never skipped a day on his mail route because of all the secrets he might pass up by not opening the mail he delivered? And who better to get to the bottom of the ensuing down-home mystery, broadly jocose without a speck of subtlety, than that Most Important Personage, J.R. Wooten's formidable grandmother Biggie—even if you end up wondering why some nosey gossips have to die while others get to return for their fourth starring role (Biggie and the Fricasseed Fat Man, 1998, etc.)? Read full book review >
BIGGIE AND THE FRICASSEED FAT MAN by Nancy Bell
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: Nov. 11, 1998

In Job's Crossing, Texas—the little town that sanity forgot—Grandma (—Biggie—) Weatherford keeps the peace as aggressively as Wyatt Earp once did. And if you don't agree that that's a chore and a half, then you're not abreast of the body count. You'd think Job's Crossing was nothing but mean streets the way the corpses keep piling up—and this is only number three in the series (Biggie and the Mangled Mortician, 1997, etc.). Poor Firman Birdsong comes up with the terrific notion of an all-chicken eatery but never gets to see it flourish—because on opening night there's Firman as the fricassee of the title, plugged, then gravied from head to toe, garnished with parsley, rendered dead, and decorated by someone whose dislike of him must have been something special. As it turns out, quite a few in Job's Crossing had it in for Firman, an entrepreneur with a checkered past. His brother, for one. Then there's Dub Watkin, Firman's rival for the affections of lush Fairy Lee. Plus a pair of mysterious strangers who complicate life for just about everybody but particularly for J.R., the story's 12-year-old narrator, since one of the two is his long-lost—and very predatory—other grandma. And then there's a second murder, seemingly connected to the first, though why kill a dotty old man who rides a lawn mower, convinced it's a cayuse? Grandma Weatherford finally loses patience and nails the perp, as is her wont. Southern-fried folksiness (and recipes), possibly harmful to sensitive stomachs. Read full book review >
BIGGIE AND THE MANGLED MORTICIAN by Nancy Bell
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: June 13, 1997

Once again, it's murder and mayhem in tiny Job's Crossing, Texas (Biggie and the Poisoned Politician, 1996). Fiona Weatherford, known as Biggie, the town's leading citizen, is working on a production of H.M.S Pinafore, hoping to raise money for the conversion of the old depot to a museum. Cast in various roles are Biggie's resourceful handyman Rosebud, husband to Willie Mae, her super cook-housekeeper; the recently arrived minister Reverend Poteet; the unabashedly gay florist and temporary police chief Butch; and newcomer Monk Carter, who's just taken over the funeral home. Monk has barely settled in when Biggie and her 12- year-old grandson, J.R., checking on Monk's absence from rehearsal, find his body in the funeral home—crushed to death, according to Doc Hooper. Some humongous footprints are found nearby, and Butch marks off the area with yellow satin bows while the locals natter on about the Wooten Creek monster. There's much speculation, too, about the disappearance of Itha, of Itha's House of Hair, and her young son DeWayne—a disappearance that leaves Itha's beauty parlor in the incompetent hands of her frantic, oversized sister Vida. These events and a dozen others come together, more or less, in Biggie's final summation of one of the untidiest plots of this or any other year. Only J.R., who narrates, seems immune to the general looniness, which is sustained by an endless procession of goodies from Willie Mae's kitchen. Die-hard fans of the folksy genre may enjoy; most others won't applaud this overcontrived, over-cutesy second excursion to Job's Crossing. Read full book review >
BIGGIE AND THE POISONED POLITICIAN by Nancy Bell
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: May 13, 1996

A debut novel, Texas-set, that pulls out all the stops in the down-home, good ol' boys, southern-fried chicken pantheon. The white hat here isn't the local sheriff but Mrs. Fiona Wooten Weatherford, the richest landowner in Job's Crossing, known to all as Biggie and as grandma to almost 12-year-old J.R., who narrates. Biggie's household consists of J.R.; maid-supercook Willie Mae; and Willie Mae's ex-con husband Rosebud, now gardener-handyman. A recent addition, in the garage apartment, is 50ish Wade Crabtree, who sells burial insurance. It's the explosion of Mr. Crabtree's car, in Biggie's driveway, that signals that all is not well in Job's Crossing. No one is hurt, and Police Chief Travis Trotter is too busy wooing county clerk Jimmie Sue Jarvis (whose fascination for J.R. is the sixth toe on her left foot) to give it much focus. Then Biggie's attention, which should be concentrated on the upcoming Pioneer Days parade, is diverted by a new landfill being dug—in full view of the Wooten cemetery—by the order of Mayor Osbert Gribbons. There are also rumors of digging leases on local farms being sought by outside mining interests. All of that fades temporarily, however, when the mayor dies of poison while eating his favorite angel cake with whipped cream at Mr. Popolus's Owl Cafe, and Biggie resolves to find out who did it and why. Unabashedly folksy, with a parade of mouthwatering meals, y`all accents, and a plot in tatters, but Bell's first outing is also fresh, funny, and loaded with southern charm. Read full book review >