Fixing to Die
A Southern Ladies Mystery, Book #4
By Miranda James
Author Website: Catinthestacks.com
It’s autumn down south, and An’gel and Dickce Ducote are in Natchez, Mississippi, at the request of Mary Turner Catlin, the granddaughter of an old friend. Mary and her husband, Henry Howard, live in Cliffwood, one of the beautiful antebellum homes for which Natchez is famous.
Odd things have been happening in the house for years, and the French Room in particular has become the focal point for spooky sensations. The Ducotes suspect the ghostly goings-on are caused by the living, but when a relative of the Catlins is found dead in the room, An’gel and Dickce must sift through a haunted family history to catch a killer. (Goodreads)
Fixing to Die, the fourth book in the Southern Ladies Mystery series, is sure to please readers with its murder mystery, southern charm, and a ghost thrown in for good measure. On its surface, it’s a bit of a throwback to a simpler era when ladies wore hats and gloves and drank sweet tea on the front porch. Since most of the book takes place at an Antebellum mansion turned Bed and Breakfast, it very much has the feel of a closed room Agatha Christie novel…if Christie had been a southern belle.
This time around we find the octogenarian Ducote sisters, along with their ward Benjy and pets Peanut and Endora, headed to Natchez, Mississippi, where the grand-daughter of one of a sorority sister is having some unusual troubles with the family mansion turned bed and breakfast. Strange things have been happening – objects moving from one place to another, interference with electronic devices, and light bulbs constantly going out. Can it be possible that Cliffwood is haunted? Owner Mary Turner knows that An’gel and Dickce are smart and levelheaded and trusts that they can get to the bottom of the problem. Unexpected guests arrive, including a medium and distant cousins that are vying for their own piece of Cliffwood. When one of the cousins, Nathan, is found dead in the bedroom that exhibits the most paranormal activity, the Ducote sisters will have to put all of their experience to the test to solve the case.
I always enjoy my time with the Ducote sisters, and Fixing to Die is no exception. Its steady pace is reflective of the spry sisters. Their intelligence shines through, and their banter is always entertaining. It does not matter how old you are, your sister can be your best friend or most annoying confidant. We see a fair amount of Benjy in this story, and I think he balances out the older sisters. All of the characters central to this mystery are younger, too, but An’gel and Dickce hold their own, sometimes running circles around the others. These featured characters are all pretty unlikable, with the exception of Mary Turner and her husband Henry Howard. Cousin Serenity is particularly vexatious, and I do not feel sorry for her situation at all. As always, Peanut and Endora are the icing on the cake, and I am so glad that they are a part of the story.
I admit that I identified the mischievous ghost almost immediately, but there is still an unexplained paranormal element that keeps the story moving along and interesting. The mystery of the murder is also a little predictable, but it is still intriguing to see what all of the suspects have up their sleeves. Even though the murder does not happen until about a third of the way into the book, I still feel like I would like to know the victim better. As it is, I did not feel bad about his demise.
Miranda James pens some of my favorite books in the cozy mystery genre, and Fixing to Die is a fine addition to his canon. I recommend this book to James’ fans and to any reader looking for a gentle mystery with feisty, older protagonists.