Abby L. Vandiver comes to the blog today with the first in her “east Texas Cajun-flavored series, Romaine Wilder Mysteries. A delightful story set in a small town with a ‘dead squatter’ in the funeral parlor / family home. Please read on for my review of
Secrets, Lies & Crawfish Pies
Almost the moment Romaine Wilder arrived in Roble, she wanted O U T. A few years, plenty of education and a good job in Chicago with the obligatory showy apartment and a man in her life that is exciting, if not exactly free, and Romaine has it all. Until the city’s budget cuts eliminate her position as a medical examiner, and her life suddenly goes pear shaped. When you add in the not so subtle distance that her doctor-boyfriend is displaying, partially due to his marital situation, no incoming salary and no immediate jobs to hand, she’s temporarily moving back to Roble, while she decides on her next move. Her Aunt Zanne, the woman who took her in after her parent’s death, and occasionally Ioh who am I kidding – constantly) marches to the beat of her own drummer, dragging, cajoling, guilting and always nudging people to follow along, is there to help her pack up for the return.
Arriving in Roble, the house / funeral parlor in the pouring rain, an ‘extra body’ that doesn’t belong in the business is there, left by the crematory door. Adding to that lovely event, the sheriff (a cousin) is new to the job, the person who found the body has a history of severe depression and has retreated into herself, there are new people that are ‘now indispensable’ according to Zanne, and everyone believes Romaine is there for good, and will be jumping into the local Crawfish festival planning, the event headed up by her Aunt. With the county’s medical examiner ill, Romaine is stepping in to autopsy the body, Aunt Zanne is determined to find the killer, and when she’s not spouting outrageous accusations, she’s off for one of her innumerable clubs, charities and boards. Oh – and did I mention that the sheriff, her nephew Pogue, has never investigated a murder, is new to the job, and has a 4 day conference that will take him away from the investigation? We’ll overlook Zanne’s references to his lack of qualifications, or his childhood oddities that stay with you, FOREVER, in these small towns.
“Pogue, as a child, was a bit slow and he had such a huge head that is was easy for people to make matters worse, he’d fall over by just moving it away from center mass – all it took
was a slight lean and he’d go tumbling. Auntie Zanne was always trying to get Aunt Julep to take him to a specialist in Houston because she swore it was filled with lead.”
As if those stories from childhood aren’t enough – the characters here are absolutely wonderful – utterly southern and palpable, with plenty of moments as Romaine is constantly hit with memories, challenges and the pressures overt and covert, exerted by Zanne. From returning to stay, to tagging along on investigations, bullied into baking, a constant battle of her own loyalties to family crossing the lines with investigative propriety, evidence protection and trying to help Pogue without actually doing all the work herself, she’s got plenty on her plate and is constantly fighting the battle between behaving like a petulant child who’s lost her best dolly and pitching in with a good attitude. Pitching in is a given, it’s only when her aunt’s manipulations bring her memories and moments she believed were lost that her own pieces start to fall into place. With the discovery of the killer and unearthing of several other MAJOR secrets that I’m sure will lead to issues in the future, the story was a delightful series of questions and puzzles, each coming together in ways that make absolute sense, after the reveal.
Seriously, Zanne was the star of this book and Romaine, while solid, steady and likable was more the straight man to Zanne’s antics. The small town and family feel came through solidly and strong, at times it felt as if I was among the DH’s older relatives: just quietly listening and HOPING to keep up – from childhood stories, to expected participation the love, support and personalities shine through – in this relocated Louisiana Creole family in a small East Texas town.
Title: Secrets, Lies, & Crawfish Pies
Author: Abby L. Vandiver
Series: A Romaine Wilder Mystery #1
Genre: African-American, Contemporary Cozy Mystery, Small Town, Southern
Published by: Henery Press
Published on: 12 June, 2018
Source: Publisher Via Edelweiss
Get Your Copy: Amazon ♦ Barnes&Noble ♦ iTunes ♦ Kobo ♦ IndieBound
Romaine Wilder, big-city medical examiner with a small-town past, has been downsized and evicted. With few other options, she’s forced to return to her hometown of Robel in East Texas, leaving behind the man she’s dating and the life she’s worked hard to build.
Suzanne Babet Derbinay, Romaine’s Auntie Zanne and proprietor of the Ball Funeral Home, has long since traded her French Creole upbringing for Big Texas attitude. She’s a member in a number of ladies’ auxiliaries and clubs, including being in charge of the Tri-County Annual Crawfish Boil and Music Festival.
Hanging on to the magic of her Louisiana roots, she’s cooked up a love potion or two—if she could only get Romaine to drink it. But her plans are derailed when the Ball Funeral Home, bursting at the seams with dead bodies, has a squatter stiff.
Dead Guy is a problem.
Auntie Zanne can’t abide by a murderer using her funeral home as the dumping grounds for their crimes, and Romaine doesn’t want her newly elected cousin, Sheriff Pogue Folsom, to fail on his first murder case. Together, Romaine and Auntie Zanne set off to solve it.
With a dash of humor, a dollop of Southern charm, and a peek at current social issues in the mix, it’s a fun romp around East Texas to solve a murder mystery of the cozy kind.
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher Via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: