Hitchcock Sewell, Baltimore’s hip and handsome hearse jockey, returns for a second undertaking (The Hearse You Came in On, 2000) to find that murder has crashed the viewing. Everything is moving along in the properly lugubrious manner at Sewell & Sons until the extra body gets dumped on the establishment’s front steps, blood seeping from a fatal bullet wound in its chest. Inside, decently laid out—”looking very nice,” his widow acknowledges—are the more cosseted remains of Dr. Richard Kingman. Outside, surrounded by snowstorm, is the stiffening corpse of a waitress named Helen. Sewell—”Hitch” to his friends—immediately dons his deerstalker, his cap of choice, and sets out eagerly to ratiocinate. How did Helen get there? Why did she get there? What rascally plot is she the dismal culmination of? Is her murder connected to a sudden rash of other homicides—for instance, the recent deaths of a prominent young lawyer and his wife? And are all these victims secretly connected to that seemingly blameless stiff, the decently laid-out Dr. Kingman? Of course they are. And Hitch, together with the bevy of sexy aides who find the certified undertaker/funeral director/half-owner of Sewell & Sons irresistible, disinters all—though it takes him longer to dig up the answers than it would to excavate the tomb of Tutankhamen.
Cockey’s breezy, featherweight style would work far better in a novel far shorter.