cover image SPLINTERED BONES

SPLINTERED BONES

Carolyn Haines, Author . Delacorte $23.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-385-33590-4

Described on the somewhat staid cover as "a mystery from the Mississippi Delta," Haines's third Southern cozy (first in hardcover) is heavy on the cornpone, but is saved from the totally ridiculous by a hearty leavening of laughter. Sarah Booth Delaney and her cohorts, Tinkie Richmond and Cece Dee Falcon (formerly Cecil—but that's for another story) band together to save friend and horse breeder Eulalee "Lee" McBride from a first-degree murder rap. Lee has confessed to the murder of her loutish husband, Kemper Fuquar, in order to save her mixed-up 14-year-old daughter, Kip Fuquar, from the charge. The sheriff is hard-put to find a woman—any woman—on the outlying magnolia-scented estates who didn't have a motive to crush Kemper's skull, then sic Avenger, a temperamental show horse, on the rotter. When she's not busy being a PI, Sarah Booth stays busy playing with her red tick hound, Sweetie Pie; talking to a resident ghost, Jitty, in her antebellum mansion; reluctantly scouring the area for a date to the hunt ball; baby-sitting for a willful Kip; and reading Kinky Friedman books. Sarah Booth keeps up with her friends' lipstick and nail polish colors, and even goes along with having Sweetie Pie's hair dyed brown from its graying shade. The author's long on accent, if short on clues that help elucidate the mystery. But Haines (Them Bones) keeps her sense of humor throughout, holding the reader's attention and internal laugh track right down to the last snicker. Agent, Marion Young. (Mar. 5)