Digging Up the Dirt
A Southern Ladies Mystery, Book #3
By Miranda James
Author’s website: www.catinthestacks.com
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Daniele
An’gel and Dickce Ducote, busy with plans for the Athena Garden Club’s spring tour of grand old homes, are having trouble getting the other club members to help. The rest of the group is all a-flutter now that dashing and still-eligible Hadley Partridge is back to restore his family mansion. But the idle chatter soon turns deadly serious when a body turns up on the Partridge estate after a storm…
The remains might belong to Hadley’s long-lost sister-in-law, Callie, who everyone thought ran off with Hadley years ago. And if it’s not Callie, who could it be? As the Ducotes begin uncovering secrets, they discover that more than one person in Athena would kill to be Mrs. Partridge. Now An’gel and Dickce will need to get their hands dirty if they hope to reveal a killer’s deep-buried motives before someone else’s name is mud…
The octogenarian Ducote sisters once again prove they are steel magnolias and that age is merely a state and mind in the delightful Digging Up the Dirt, the third installment in the Southern Ladies Mystery Series.
Dickce and An’gel have been long-time members of the Athena Garden Club and are all set to discuss the club’s spring tour with the other board members. However, the other members are more interested in seeing Hadley Partridge, who has come home to Athena after being away for forty years. The sisters are interested in seeing how playboy and flirt Hadley has fared over the years, but the other ladies practically throw themselves at him. Hadley is somewhat vague about his life but is surprised to find that the whole town believes that his sister-in-law Callie ran away to be with him. One of the club members “jokes” that Callie must have been murdered by her husband, Hadley’s brother Hamish, and the next morning she is found dead at the foot of her home’s stairs. The sisters have a hard time believing that Sarinda drank too much and fell to her death. When a long buried bodied is found on Hadley’s estate and another board member is found in dire condition after being run off the road, the sisters cannot help but think that the past and present are connected. None of the club members are safe, and all of them are suspects. Dickce and An’gel, along with their ward Benjy, do sleuthing of their own to uncover all of the Partridge family secrets.
I am a big fan of Miranda James’ Cat in the Stacks Mystery series, also set in the fictional Southern small town of Athena, Mississippi, and it is fun to see the town from the sisters’ perspective. Part of what I enjoy so much about the Southern Ladies series is that the sisters are in their eighties. They are a fabulous mix of old-fashioned Southern manners and tough twenty-first century savviness. They are spinster aunts that I would love to call my own – courageous, smart, genteel. James does a tremendous job of immersing the reading in the setting, and I feel like I am right there beside Dickce and An’gel as they sit down to dinner, gossip, or investigate. Benjy adds a touch of youthful vigor to the mix, and Peanut the dog and Endora the cat are also fun additions to the story.
All of the action centers on the garden club’s board members and a few former and current members of the Partridge household. The club members make good suspects, and their closeness to the sisters makes me feel all the more invested in the outcome of the investigation. At first, I was unsure if I would like Hadley, but his charm won me over, and as the story progressed, he lost his playboy façade and became endearing. I hope we see more of him in future books. The past and present mysteries come together to make quite a compelling read. There are clues along the way with a couple of red herrings and a surprise or two.
With strong, likable characters, a picturesque small town setting, and a strong, multidimensional mystery, Digging Up the Dirt is a highly entertaining cozy mystery that does justice to the genre. Highly recommended.