Bless Her Dead Little Heart by Miranda James: Book Summary
Cat In The Stacks Companion
A spin off of Miranda James Cat In the Stacks New York Times bestselling series, James brings a new set of mysteries to her newest inductees into sleuthing: elderly sisters An'gel and Dickce (pronouced as Angel and Dixie, if you please) Ducote in Bless Her Dead Little Heart.
Agreeing to pet sit for their friend,Charlie Harris of The Cat In The Stacks series and let Maine Coon, Diesel stay over, the Ducote sisters quickly get more than they bargined for as the doorbell continues to ring in the quirky debut novel of the Southern Ladies Mysteries.
Like many other Southern Mysteries writers, James plays up on the quirky hospitality of the Ducote sisters as the situation grows more and more out of hand but true to their training and good manners, they never let anyone see them sweat under the pressure.
The sisters, are both single and childless living in their family home that has been built in the 1800s, and presumably moved back home after attending college several decades before. Now both retirees, they plan to live out their golden years in the manor that has belonged to kin on both sides of the Great War since its was built in the early 1800's in Mississippi.
Unexpectedly, a woman from the sisters' past, a soroity sister, Rosabelle Sultan, whom last they had known had moved to California after her own family fortune had begun to waver; shows up on the Ducote porch saying that she had been driving all night to flee her family that was looking to kill her.
Knowing that Rosabelle has the complicity to be over-dramatic, the sisters decide to take her in, well knowing that this will work itself out-although last time they had boarded Rosabelle it was knowingly two weeks too long.
After sitting down to a glass of sweet tea with her hosts, Rosabelle explains how she has been mysteriously been poisoned twice, and pushed down the stairs, and that someone in her family home was out to get her.
An'gel and Dickce don't believe of word of it-until the doorbell rings time after time and Rosabelle's brood quickly floods the manor all looking for.
Rosabelle Sultan appears without notice claiming someone in her family is trying to kill her after attempts to push her down the stairs, and feed her poisoned food. The Ducote sisters's don't believe her tale, knowing their friend to be rather needing of attention but suddenly members of her family begin to show up as well.
A Former Sorority Sister With A Family Trying To Kill Her
Within a matter of hours, several new cars line the driveway as An'gel peers outside. The incessant ringing of the doorbell is quickly becoming a punchline in a joke the sisters are not let in on, as Rosabelle's family keeps showing up from California saying they had driven all night worried about her welfare and figured that she was headed back to her friends' in Mississippi.
Rosabelle has two daughters, a son and his wife and children and a stepson in tow that all also clamor for accommodation at the manor until Rosabelle can be brought back home. Wade and his family are haughty and don't think the house is well enough to suit them, his wife making snippy comments- although the sisters' know that Rosabelle was close to broke the last they had made her acquaintance.
Now housing ten additional people in extra bedrooms, and one cat, the Ducote sisters' are just settling in for the evening when a new problem besets them- the mysterious death of one of their uninvited guests, the snotty wife of the Rosabelle's son.
Calling out the police to investigate, everyone is a suspect in the death as An'gel and Dickce soon discover that their home was used to cover up a murder that was planned to look like one of the accidents that Rosabelle often described, a push down the stairs.
Only forensics discovers that the stairs were wet, and the handrails on the staircase that would have been used to break the fall were slathered in Vaseline to make sure the victim would have continued falling.
But was the right victim the one that was dead?
It begins with a wet stair case and banisters coated in Vaseline, then a bath towel coated with rubber spiders that gave another family a heart attack. All these prank toys seemed to belong to the youngest member of Rosabelle's brood, Benjy, a teen that hates his family and wants nothing more than to attend college to get away from them. An'gel and Dickce are charmed by the young man, but is he pretending to be so innocent?
Everyone Is A Suspect
Within a day of the murder on the stairs, another family member drops dead from a heart attack after rubber spiders are placed in the bath towels. Are these mere pranks by one of the children? Or as Rosabelle fears, someone intending to get her killed but somehow backfiring on other members of the family instead?
An'gel and Dickce hope that it isn't teen, Benjy who only wants to go away to college to get away from the crazy family and after the death of his mother in the accident, he thinks his dreams of becoming a veterinarian are being pushed farther and father away as he will have no place in his stepfather's home now.
Rosabelle does care about Benjy, and the family home is actually hers, but as she fears for her life, she can do little to actually protect him.
Then the doorbell rings again, and this time is is Rosabelle's husband, who was already presumed dead but was actually in Italy taking care of family business when he claims that he has come back to whisk his wife away from her old life and whatever she has left in California- which seems too convenient for whoever has been killing off the family members. When Dickce overhears a phone conversation, and one more guest arrives- a man that turns out to be the lover of Rosabelle's husband, it is now unfolded that he planned to divorce her and take what was left of her money that her selfish children were feuding and even planning to kill her over.
When the murder is finally uncovered, Dickce has a plan to keep Benjy in Mississippi and help the boy work towards his goals of going to college by helping them around the house and taking care of a dog and cat that a farmer in the area was going to give to a shelter but Dickce decided to open their home to.
Setting the stage for further novels in the series, Dickce, Benjy, An'gel and the pets seem to have more mysteries in store. Bless Her Dead Little Heart was quirky, silly, and even downright slapstick in the ways the murders had taken place putting a lighthearted spin on a murder mystery.
I look forward to more books in this series and it makes me want to pick up another Cat In The Stacks as well.