Hollywood roars into Zinnia, Mississippi, along with several less welcome blasts.
The first unexpected arrival is Frangelica "Sister" McFee, who crashes Harold Erkwell’s hitherto perfect New Year’s Eve party to announce that her bestselling book about the death of her mother is about to go before the cameras. Sarah Booth Delaney and Tinkie Bellcase Richmond, the two halves of the Delaney Detective Agency, are both scandalized and somehow reassured to see that Sister is as abrasive, combustible, and generally unbearable as ever. The highflying partners in Black Tar Productions, director Marco St. John and his cinematographer wife, former actress Lorraine St. John, soon follow with a surprising offer Sarah Booth can’t refuse. Sister’s tell-all account of Cleo McFee’s drowning after her son, Daryl, whom everyone calls Son, drove into the Sunflower River may not tell the whole story after all, especially since she has no good explanation for why Son’s body never turned up. So would the Delaney Detective Agency please accept a retainer of $10,000 to reopen their own independent investigation of the 5-year-old case? Fans of this long-running series (Rock-a-Bye Bones, 2016, etc.) won’t be surprised that what follows is not so much detective work as barely controlled chaos as Sarah Booth bounces like a pinball from her familiar, her ancestor Jitty Delaney, who this time around amuses herself by masquerading as a varied series of spies, to her almost-boyfriend, Sunflower County Sheriff Coleman Peters, to Colin McFee, Cleo’s widower, who’s torn between running a senatorial campaign by denouncing Vladimir Putin early and often and coping with the pregnancy of Susan Simpson McFee, the mistress he married.
The mystery, past and present, isn’t up to much, and Haines doesn’t know any more about filmmaking than you do. But who else would create a climactic scene of which one witness observes: “I’ve never seen a woman give birth and do a vault onto a man’s shoulders”?