It was a brilliant idea to spin off Miranda James' popular Cat in the Stacks mysteries. James even makes readers feel at home by including familiar characters. Although the new Southern Ladies mysteries revolve around Miss An'gel and Miss Dickce Ducote, Charlie Harris' Maine Coon cat, Diesel, and Athena, Mississippi's Chief Deputy, Kanesha Berry, are prominently featured in Bless Her Dead Little Heart. It's southern comfort of the non-alcoholic sort with this new series.
And, it's southern hospitality that gets the two octogenarian sisters into trouble. It's the lazy days of summer, and Miss An'gel and Miss Dickce are catsitting for Diesel. There's nothing else planned, so it comes as a surprise when their old sorority sister Rosabelle Sultan shows up, begging for sanctuary, saying someone in her family is trying to kill her. Rosabelle is an unwelcome guest, but Miss An'gel can't turn away a sorority sister in need. But, as Rosabelle's entire family shows up, following the matriarch who controls the purse strings, the two sisters begin to wish they hadn't been quite so hospitable. And, when one of the family ends up dead, they truly regret allowing strangers to have the run of their home.
Miss An'gel and Miss Dickce are wonderful amateur sleuths, who definitely have a reason to snoop. Miss An'gel "wanted the murder solved and these people out of her house as soon as possible". And, the two sisters are fun, competitive as any two sisters, while allies against Rosabelle's family. They are keenly observant of the family dynamics, watching for clues leading to a killer. And, then there's Diesel, a wonderful character himself, with his chirps and his instincts for people. But, James, wisely, introduces a couple surprises for future books.
James' characters are perfect. And, the author's use of southern expressions adds to the enjoyment. Take Rosabelle's family. "They didn't have the manners the good Lord gave a billy goat." Miss An'gel and Miss Dickce are the doyennes of Athena, Mississippi. And, now, they're the doyennes of Southern cozy mysteries. Bless Her Dead Little Heart kicks off a charming series with humor and heart.
Miranda James can be found at www.catinthestacks.com
Bless Her Dead Little Heart by Miranda James. Berkley Prime Crime. 2014. ISBN 9780425273043 (paperback), 289p.
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.