Here, again, comes Luke Nelson, a.k.a. Pukey Lukey, chronically carsick cousin to those redoubtable southern matrons Patricia Ann Hollowell and Mary Alice Crane (Murder Shoots the Bull, 1999, etc.). The sisters, just back from their Christmas visit to Patricia Ann’s daughter Haley in Warsaw, are eagerly awaiting the arrival of David Anthony, first son of Mary Alice’s daughter Debbie and naturally conceived sibling to her turkey-baster twins Fay and May. But family being family, they can’t shrink from helping Lukey find his bride of 40-some years, Virginia, who ran off with Monk Crawford, itinerant preacher and part-time house painter who did just the best job on her soffits. Tracking the missing pair to the Church of Jesus is Our Life and Heaven Hereafter, where Monk ministers to the good people of Chandler Mountain by handling rattlesnakes and drinking strychnine, they find Monk isn’t home; instead, laid neatly on a pew, is the body of his daughter-in-law Susan. Moved by Susan’s downtrodden sister, Betsy Mahall, Patricia Ann sees fit to investigate, remarking all the way how childish and selfish—not to mention gluttonous—her sister is (unlike her thoughtful, sensible, size-six self). But Mary Alice helps investigate, too, if only to impress her new beau, Sheriff Virgil Stuckey, smitten at his first sight of Mary Alice in the purple leather boots she brought back from Poland.
Complaining about her sister’s foibles leaves little time for detection, so it’s lucky for Patricia Ann that the solution to the case virtually falls into her lap. But beware—this southern saga is syrupy enough to upset tummies stronger than Luke’s.