cover image HALLOWED BONES


Carolyn Haines, . . Delacorte, $23.95 (352pp) ISBN 978-0-385-33778-6

Amour and a murder make this Mississippi Delta whodunit from Haines (Crossed Bones , etc.) sure to please. Since PI Sarah Booth Delaney's most spiritual aspect is her live-in ghost, it's more than surprising when a nun hires her to help a "healer" who was raised in the sister's orphanage. Doreen Mallory, tarot card reader, charismatic teacher and object of a large following's devotion, sits in a New Orleans jail cell, accused of murdering her baby. Was it a case of "if you can't heal 'em, kill 'em," or was someone else responsible for the crime? Sarah Booth's associate Tinkie Richmond joins the hunt, and the two set off for the Crescent City, intent on finding the truth. The trail forces Sarah Booth into close quarters with Sheriff Coleman Peters, whose almost-indiscretion with the Southern belle turned detective has left them both wondering what might have been, barring Coleman's wife's first dibs on the lawman. But, par for the course, it's either feast or famine in Sarah Booth's love life, so re-enter her former flame, Hamilton Garrett. Between her own problems and delving into an impressive trio of could-be sperm donors for Doreen's daughter, a number of reasons for wanting the child dead reach the surface. The twists and turns take the reader through the labyrinth of the charming French Quarter and into the settings of high and low society. When the dots are connected, the conclusion is both clever and impressive. (Mar. 30)