Ahead of the Game ) is a crowd-pleasing, lightweight whodunit filled with unabashedly wacky characters. Lonely, sarcastic R"/>

Once a Thief

Suzann Ledbetter, Author . Mira $6.99 (393p) ISBN 978-0-7783-2300-6

The latest from the diverse Ledbetter (Ahead of the Game ) is a crowd-pleasing, lightweight whodunit filled with unabashedly wacky characters. Lonely, sarcastic Ramey Burke is a "home-stager" (a person who fixes up houses about to go on the market) who has lost her husband and parents "all in a three-year span." When three aged ex-cons stop by looking for a place to stay, Ramey can't say no—they're family, and they're just out of jail. The addition of two uncles and an aunt to the household makes for a festive reunion—Aunt Melba Jane Dillinger whipping up a 40-pound bowl of mashed potatoes, Uncles Ed and Archie sharing secrets of the bank-robbing trade—until a corpse shows up in the house shrubbery. When the victim turns out to be an old acquaintance of Ramey's houseguests, suspicion falls on the Dillinger trio. Convinced of her relations' innocence—at least in the homicide department—Ramey teams up with sexy detective Mike Constantine to find the killer. Ledbetter has crafted a comic romance mystery that gives equal weight to all three elements and caps it with an ending that doesn't disappoint. (May)

Reviewed on: 04/03/2006
Release date: 05/01/2006
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