Zinnia, Mississippi, has two things going for it: The best white blues-guitarist, Scott Hampton, strums away at African-American Ivory Keys’s roadhouse, Playin’ the Bones; and a passel of Daddy’s Girls (DG), who’ve grown up, like Tinkie, to epitomize southern womanhood—except for Sarah Booth Delaney, the slightly askew DG who runs her own detective agency and so is hired by Ida Mae Keys to prove that, despite the evidence, Scott didn’t murder her husband. So who did? Her black-supremacist son Emanuel is a possible candidate. So are ex-con racist bikers Spider and Ray-Ban and wealthy, impossibly perfect blues collector Bridge, who begins courting Sarah to the despair of smitten but married sheriff Coleman Peters. As Sarah Booth and Tinkie, their beloved dogs Sweetie Pie and Chablis, and a smart-mouthed ghost who’s been hanging around Sarah Booth’s house for years try to sort out the good ’uns from the others, race blasts the community apart, with nooses dangling, white-supremacist tattoos peeking out from beneath good-ol’-boy T-shirts, Molotov cocktails, and tombstone desecration. Scott’s biggest fan is a certifiable nutcase even if she is a DG, and there are rumors of a stash of never-released studio recordings of Elvis and Ivory that are worth millions. But who has them, and who’d kill for them?
A down-home valentine, far superior to Splintered Bones (2002), that couldn’t be more southern if it were packaged with grits. Haines plays every race card in the deck and throws in some bedroom scenes for readers who like a little romance.