This delightfully breezy, richly atmospheric debut by a former journalist who covered Savannah's infamous Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil murder trials fails to generate much suspense, but it derives its charm from an encyclopedic trove of lore about antiquities and dishy gossip, Southern style. Divorced from blue-blood architect Talmadge Evans III, but still living in a carriage house in the backyard of their restored mansion, Eloise "Weezie" Foley suffers the indignity of having her ex's sexy fiancée, Caroline DeSantos, living in the main house Weezie restored herself. As a "picker," Weezie earns her living foraging for discarded treasures in Dumpsters and at estate sales. When she discovers Caroline's corpse in a historic manor house, Weezie is the prime suspect in her murder. To compound her quandary, Weezie's attorney—her closeted Uncle James, an ex-Catholic priest—is having an illicit affair with a man from the DA's office. Factor in her on-again, off-again romance with old high school flame Daniel Stipanek, counterfeit antiques and her mom's alcoholism, and the plucky heroine has enough problems to drive at least three novels. Unfortunately, the suspense gets lost somewhere among the antiques and Weezie's attempts to consummate her romance with Daniel. But even a denouement that comes way too soon and a junk bin of distractions won't keep readers away. 8-city author tour. (Feb. 20)
Forecasts:This appealing effort should do well enough on its own, but if booksellers and publicists play up the Midnight connection, it could soar.