THE HEARSE CASE SCENARIO
In Cockey's third well-paced, unpredictable hearse novel (after 2001's Hearse of a Different Color), Hitchcock Sewell, Baltimore's wisecracking mortician/sleuth, sets out to exonerate his hapless childhood friend, Lucy, accused of murdering her low-life boyfriend, Shrimp Martin. Sure, Lucy shot him, but she wasn't the one who killed him. Hitch's search begins with Shrimp's nightclub and the cast of characters who worked there—the captivating, no-nonsense singer; the jazz trumpeter who speaks in circles; and the contemptuous bartender with a hidden agenda. When Arthur, Shrimp's stepbrother and the club's photographer, goes missing, Hitch cajoles the hangdog private detective who's looking for Arthur into helping him find Shrimp's real killer. Together they stumble onto an elaborate gambling scheme, an unorthodox and very one-sided business partnership and the details of the year-old murder of an all-American college girl (whose body was found at Shrimp's club). Although there are a few too many pointless asides with Hitch's bouncy ex-wife, Julia (who, we are constantly reminded, is very sexy), some of the other characters are so endearing you'll want to buy them a round of beer and crab cakes. Pervading the book is Cockey's humor, which at times veers toward the cornball but never without knowing that it's going there. This quirky book is sure to delight existing fans and send new readers in search of the first two in the series. (Feb. 6)
Forecast:With a six-city hearse driving tour, a teaser chapter in the mass market edition of Hearse of a Different Color (Feb.) and a well-designed promotional site at TimCockey.com, expect this one to build further momentum for this offbeat series.