cover image Tight as a Tick

Tight as a Tick

Toni L. P. Kelner. Kensington Publishing Corporation, $18.95 (296pp) ISBN 978-1-57566-242-8

As she did in Country Comes to Town (1996), Kelner pins a humorous mystery on the contrast between Yankee and Southern habits. This time out, Boston's Laura Fleming and her husband, Richard, a professor, are visiting her relatives in Byerly, N.C., where Laura's great-aunt Maggie maintains a weekend booth at the Tight As a Tick Flea Market. The visit turns nasty when the body of Carney Alexander, the knife dealer in the booth next to Maggie's, is found dead under the sheet used to cover his wares when the market is closed. After the police decide it was a random killing, Maggie calls on her niece to solve the crime. Laura, of course, takes the bait. Going undercover as prospective flea market dealers, she and Richard get to know the other vendors and ask questions about the unpopular Carney. They discover a slew of potential suspects, each with a reason for hating the knife dealer, who, among other things, called the health department to report that the tattoo artist used dirty needles and the dwarf's concession stand was infested with bugs. Laura feels she's getting nowhere, but when a busybody dealer who looks from the back a lot like Aunt Maggie is knocked unconscious, she and Richard burrow deeper, finally solving the crimes. Kelner's Laura is an enjoyable, gently sarcastic narrator whose amusement at the down-home style of rural Byerly will be shared by most readers. (Jan.)