SOUTHERN SISTERS

Recently, in one of my readers’ groups, everyone was raving about how much they had enjoyed Anne George’s SOUTHERN SISTERS Series back in the day. The main characters are Patricia Anne “Mouse” Hollowell, (housewife) and Mary Alice “Sister” Crane (Country Western Bar Owner). Set in Alabama, with visits to Florida where Sister has a condo, this fun series ran from 1996 until 2001. Alas, Agatha Award winning author Anne George passed away in 2001. You have two sisters, Southern, complete opposites; if you want a formula for an hysterical cozy series, that would be top of the list. All the books have a well written mystery to follow and solve, along with plenty of laughs. Until I read Murder Carries A Torch, I did not know there were religious groups that feature snake handling. So I learned something as well. And as for the last book, Murder Boogies With Elvis, you know a story with 30 Elvis impersonators is going to be fun. This is definitely a series to read if you haven’t or even reread if it’s been a while. ♥♥♥♥♥

Patricia Anne — “Mouse” — is respectful, respectable, and demure, a perfect example of genteel Southern womanhood. Mary Alice — “Sister” — is big, brassy, flamboyant, and bold. Together they have a knack for finding themselves in the center of some of Birmingham’s most unfortunate unpleasantness.

Country Western is red hot these days, so overimpulsive Mary Alice thinks it makes perfect sense to buy the Skoot ‘n’ Boot bar — since that’s where the many-times-divorced “Sister” and her boyfriend du jour like to hang out anyway. Sensible retired schoolteacher Patricia Anne is inclined to disagree — especially when they find a strangled and stabbed dead body dangling in the pub’s wishing well. The sheriff has some questions for Mouse and her sister Sister, who were the last people, besides the murderer, of course, to see the ill-fated victim alive. And they had better come up with some answers soon — because a killer with unfinished business has begun sending them some mighty threatening messages…

It’s hard to believe practical, petite ex-schoolteacher Patricia Anne and amiable, ample-bodied, and outrageous Mary Alice are sisters, yet sibling rivalry has survived decades of good-natured disagreement about everything from husbands to hair color. No sooner do the Southern sisters discover a common interest in some local art, when they’re arguing the artistic merits of some well-coiffured heads at a gallery opening. A few hours later, one of those pretty ladies ends up dead — with not a hair out of place. The other shows up on Patricia Anne’s doorstep dazed, disheveled, and telling a wild tale of a narrow escape from some deadly cuts. Now the sisters are once again combing for clues to catch a killer with a bizarre style in art — and murder.

Mary Alice has spared nothing for her only daughter’s wedding — from seventy-five yards of bridal train to gourmet food for over three hundred guests and enough glittering elegance to make Mary Alice think about finding herself a fourth rich husband to pay for it all.

Practical Patricia Anne has put away her aunt-of-the-bride blue chiffon and settled back into domesticity when fun-loving Mary Alice calls to say they have a post-wedding date with a genealogist from the groom’s side of the family. Lunch is a fascinating lesson on the hazards of finding dirty linens in ancestral boudoirs that ends abruptly when their guest scurries off with the local judge, leaving the sisters with their mouths open — and finishing their luncheon companion’s cheesecake — when the police arrive.

Their mysterious guest has taken a plunge from the ninth floor of the courthouse building — an apparent suicide. But given the scandals a nosy genealogist might have uncovered, the sisters are betting that some proud Southern family is making sure their shameful secrets stay buried. . .along with anyone who tries to dig them up.

Those hilarious southern sisters, who prove that sibling rivalry never ends, are heading for a vacation at the beach. Mary Alice’s flamboyant behavior aside, serious, sensible Patricia Anne looks forward to relaxing at her sister’s beachfront condo in Destin, Florida, so she kisses her ever-loving spouse Fred god-bye, reminds him to water the plants and feed the dog, and the girls head south for some fin in the sun.

Mary Alice loses no time in making the acquaintance of just about everyone in sight, so watching the sun go down on the beautiful shores of the Gulf of Mexico is a welcome respite as far as Patricia Anne is concerned. . .until a dead body washes up in the waves and the victim turns out to be one of Mary Alice’s newfound friends. With no witnesses t the crime except a few great blue herons, the sisters have no choice but to bypass the clueless police and follow their own instinct to find the killer. Before long they_re on a murky trail of dirty real-estate deals, giant turtle habitats, and a sea of evidence pointing to a mammoth motive for murderer.

Patricia Anne can’t imagine why Mary Alice is in such an uproar over her son Ray’s new bride. Sunshine Dabbs is Ucute as can be,” even if she is a bit unconventional, which should hardly come as a shock to Mary Alicc given that she’s the one who raised her boy. But with all her motherly instincts, Mary Alice is sure that this sweet little blonde Barbie doll–who met her son in Bora Bora after she won the trip on Wheel of Fortune–thinks she’s found herself a fortune in Ray’s hefty wallet.

The sisters can’t wait to get a look at Sunshine’s family, and quite a look it turns out to be. As soon as Meemaw Turkett invites Mary Alice and Patricia Anne into her cozy trailer on the family compound they stumble over a corpse, and Meemaw’s best hog butchering knife is stuck in its chest. Meemaw, a Cabbage Patch look-alike and Sunshine’s grandmother, guardian, and the family matriarch is shocked to pieces and immediately summons the family to her trailer. Pawpaw, a lovable bearded grump has his own trailer, and their grown kids each enjoy a private home-away-from-home on the five-trailer compound.

The discovery of the mysterious body brings in Mary Alice’s nemesis, good ol’ boy Sheriff Reuse, who, she knows from her experience at the Skoot ‘n’ Boot, is nothing but trouble. Within minutes, the compound is strewn with a weird collection of friends, neighbors and relatives. There’s Meemaw’s spooky channeler, ready to give guidance as needed; Sunshine’s jilted boyfriend skulking around; a bunch of dogs ready to attack…and Kerrigan, Sunshine’s mostly absentee mama, who stars in the kind of video flicks that might even shock Mary Alice.

Patricia Anne would swear that either she or her sister Mary Alice were switched at birth, except they were both born at home.Flashy, flirtatious Mary Alice is one foot taller, twice the body weight of Patricia Anne, and three times as likely to do something completely off the wall. But now Mary Alice’s impulsive behavior has land them both in the Birmingham jail!

It all begins with a call from their good friend Mitzi Phizer, who’s starting an investment club — kind of a Beardstown Ladies group. Patricia Anne is willing to make a small, conservative investment in a thriving chain of HMOs; Mary Alice is hot to trot to put her money on Viagra. But before the club idea gets off the ground, the sisters spot Mitzi’s supposedly faithful husband in a chummy little huddle with a redhead — and the next thing they know, Arthur is accused of murdering the mystery woman. Nothing about the whole sordid story fits the kind, gently Arthur, and Patricia Anne is doing her best to console her good friends. But when their house catches on fire, and Arthur is shot in a place that won’t allow him to even sit down at his own murder trial, the sisters know they have to stand up for the poor fellow. And that means checking out everyone — from low-down cads to highbrow bank presidents — to find a no good gun-toting arsonist who believes big money is to kill for.

Though unalike as snowflakes, sisters Patricia Anne and Mary Alice share a sympathetic heart for their distraught cousin Luke — known affectionately in his boyhood as “Pukey Lukey,” because of his penchant for getting sick in moving vehicles. Luke is desperate to hunt down Virginia, his wife of forty years, who has run off with a housepainter/snake-handling preacher named “Monk.” And the sisters have graciously agreed to accompany their stricken kinsman on his search…in Luke’s car, of course.

But, while practical “Mouse” and flamboyant “Sister” are unable to find their runaway cousin-in-law among the asp-loving faithful on Chandler Mountain, they do manage to stumble upon the corpse of a pretty young redhead who was prematurely sent to her eternal reward. And before you can say “anaconda,” they are hot on the serpentine trail of a killer who’d like nothing better than to sink a pair of poisonous fangs into two meddling Southern sisters!

Oversized, outrageous Mary Alice and her prim sister Patricia Anne have been looking forward to the gala benefit being staged to raise money for the restoration of Vulcan, Birmingham’s ever-tarnishing unnatural wonder. And what a show it is, with a grand finale that has thirty sequined Elvis impersonators high-kicking in unison! From the front row, “Mouse” and “Sister” have a perfect view of the action when one of the dancing Kings keels over dead into the bandstand. This Elvis clone has not only left the building … he’s left this life, courtesy of a switchblade knife in the back. And when the murder weapon turns up in Patricia Anne’s very sensible purse, the perennially law-abiding “Mouse” is understandably all shook up. Suspicious minds have her pegged as the prime suspect in this bizarre case of Elvis elimination. And if she doesn’t do some serious sleuthing, she could end up doing the Jailhouse Rock!

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2 thoughts on “SOUTHERN SISTERS

  1. This sounds like a really fun series of novels. Your excellent revies show up the great plots. Well done.

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