Sarah Booth didn’t expect her life would be so complicated. Thirty-three. Unemployed. Broke. At risk of losing her family home. And to top it all off, she’s being haunted by the ghost of her great-great-grandmother’s nanny, Jitty— who has the perfect plan for Sarah to earn a little money. All she has to do is dognap her friend’s canine, collect the ransom money, and return the pooch. Easy! But when word gets around that she’s good at ‘solving’ crimes, she’s hired for another mystery … and this one started with murder.
For a book written two decades ago, Them Bones is a refreshing cozy mystery. That’s not to suggest that some of references aren’t firmly planted in the ‘90s. They are. But author Carolyn Haines has crafted a complicated and wickedly funny cozy that breaks just enough of the rules to keep things exciting.
And a lot of this stems from Sarah Booth herself. Booth is stuck between two different worlds: the traditions of her deep south roots as a Daddy’s Girl (the local term for privileged women) and her independent streak. She carefully navigates between these planes, clinging to her family’s history while also assessing the absurdity of her tight-knit community. It’s what makes her an excellent sleuth— she easily glides through social various social circles, whether she’s attending a costume social with enemies or sipping moonshine on her front porch with a potential love interest. She’s also somewhat desperate, wanting to save her family’s plantation while sorting her life out, and it feels natural how she stumbles into the murder mystery.
Of course, in a cozy, it all comes down to the mystery, and Haines more than delivers on that front. Sarah gets mixed into the case through a few nefarious actions, but, hey, it’s justified as much as possible. And from there it’s a flash of murder, intrigue, and chaos. Haines doles out a complicated plot with seemingly no obvious solution until she expertly ties everything together in a satisfying ending.
Southern tradition, a compelling detective, a blunt ghost, and so many questions make for one fun cozy.
Title: Them Bones
Author: Carolyn Haines
Publication Date: November 02, 1999
Classification: Cozy Mystery
Note: I discovered this series thanks to a great review from Stephanie’s Novel Fiction.