A lesson in lying, Mississippi style.
Monica and Eleanor Levert, the last two surviving members of the Natchez clan founded by slave-trading blackguard Barthelme, ask the Delaney Detective Agency to help prove that the family’s ruby necklace, valued at $4 million, has been stolen. Partners Sarah Booth and Tinkie, thinking the job will be safe, easy, quick and no cause for their menfolk to fret about them, agree to prepare a report for the insurance company. They’ve barely parked their blood-red Cadillac under the Levert portico when Eleanor reports that Monica has been kidnapped by a man who demands the insurance money as ransom. Agreeing to handle the arrangements, Sarah Booth and Tinkie, along with their faithful four-legged companions, Sweetie Pie and Chablis, are soon up to their southern accents in tall tales. Some are told by a devilishly handsome rogue claiming that he’s a Levert heir because he’s Monica’s illegitimate son, others by Millicent, a distant cousin who thinks she’s entitled to some largesse from the sisters. And there’s still more. Lolly the gardener is hiding his romantic trysts, Kissie the housekeeper is letting the rogue stay in a house wing unannounced, and a historian descended from a dupe of Barthelme plans a tell-all book. A stallion gallops across the plantation. A body falls off the plantation cliff. Jitty, the ghost who tweaks Sarah Booth about her love life, keeps appearing as pairs of sisters. Lies as thick as the Natchez humidity ultimately lead to two death scenes, several disappearances and a scam within a scam that almost causes Tinkie and Sarah Booth their lives.
Haines (Bone Appetit, 2010, etc.) diverts the reader from plot inconsistencies with great dollops of charm.