Delacorte, Apr 2004, 23.95, 352 pp.
The Delaney Detective Agency moves into its new office in Zinnia, Mississippi. Owner Sarah Booth Delaney and her friend Tinkie Richmond are delighted with their new setting including a Kinky Friedman inspired red phone. They get a client right away when New Orleans based Sister Mary Magdalen hires Sarah to prove that healer Doreen Mallory did not kill her ten week old daughter Rebekah, who suffered from major birth defects.
After receiving unwanted advice from her roommate Jitty the 1850s circa ghost, Sarah and Tinkie begin making inquiries into the life of the “good soul” Doreen. They find the healer has been quite promiscuous as she provided heavenly love to financier Michael Anderson, televangelist Oren Weaver, and married Senator Thaddeus Clay. Each one prayed that the infant victim did not come from their seed. The case turns bizarre as other previous deaths seem linked and each of the lovers has plenty in their respective closet that could destroy them; the child would be one more nuke to someone's reputation.
This is an intriguing private investigative case that as the heroine finds a clue it spins concentrically away from resolving who killed Rebekah so that the audience wonders which of the three men or even Doreen committed the crime. Sarah is a delightful protagonist whose investigative abilities are much better than her male relationship skills. Though Jitty is supposed to provide amusing asides, the specter seems more like an unnecessary subplot that fails to augment the case while being a pain in the butt involving Sarah's personal life. Still, Carolyn Haines provides a delightful Big Easy who-done-it.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner