BUSY BODIES by Joan Hess


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Farberville, Ark., home to Claire Malloy (Tickled to Death, 1994, etc.) -- queen of the busybodies, owner of the local bookstore, and mother of wearing teenager Caron -- is agog over the antics of bankable Houston artist Zeno Gorgias. He's moved into the ramshackle house on Willow Street and proceeded to turn the grounds into ""environmental art"" complete with flashing lights, gawking crowds, and walk-throughs by near-naked Melanie Magruder, his current mistress. Neighbors Anthony Leach, a lawyer trying to sell his house; mortally offended Bible-thumpers Tracy and Joshua Dwain; and others are up in arms. Meantime, the town, afraid of lawsuits, refuses to act, but all becomes moot when the house burns down and the body of Zeno's estranged wife and business manager is found in the wreckage. A second killing on the block, seemingly unconnected, adds to the confusion. Zeno is arrested, but Claire's elderly friend Emily Parchester, who lives next door to Zeno, is convinced he's no murderer. That's all the excuse Claire needs to go into sleuthing mode -- befriending an ever-disappearing Melanie; chatting with Zeno's agent; visiting the Dwains' Bible School; pretending to be a prospective house-buyer -- all of it enough to send her policeman-lover, Peter Rosen, up the wall. It's Claire's efforts, of course, that bring the predictable villain to light in the windup of another prolix outing -- tenth in the series. There are a few funny lines and some acerbic, well-aimed barbs at Zeno's cant. Die-hard fans may accept the frenetic plotting; others will direct heartfelt sympathies to Lieutenant Peter Rosen.

Pub Date: June 19th, 1995
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Dutton