The Mississippi delta in the summer heat is not all that's steaming in Haines's (Splintered Bones, etc.) fourth outing featuring PI Sarah Booth Delaney, an atypical Southern belle who's fiercely independent and outrageously witty. Sarah is enjoying her family home, a mansion in Zinnia, Miss., complete with cotton fields, coral honeysuckle vines and the ghost of Jitty, her great-great-grandmother's nanny. When nightclub owner and black blues pianist Ivory Keys is stabbed to death at his club, Ivory's wife asks Sarah to vindicate the prime suspect, Scott Hampton, a talented white blues guitarist with a history of racism. Aided by her partner Tinkie Richmond, Sarah inadvertently stirs up passions among the townspeople that were long thought forgotten. Jitty's continual lectures on marriage and family and Sarah's mixed feelings about Sheriff Coleman Peters and two new suitors complicate the investigation. While the ghostly Jitty's advice can be wearying and the clothing details verge on the tedious, Haines delivers some real heartwarming moments in a mystery with some fascinating twists. This cozy read is the next best thing to curling up with a mint julep on the porch swing on a lazy afternoon. Agent, Marian Young. (Apr. 8)
Correction: The ISBN for Joan Hess's Big Foot Stole My Wife! And Other Stories (Forecasts, Jan. 27) is 0-7862-4318-X.