Absinthe of Malice: Deliciously Dangerous
Both women hunker down in the countryside on a stake-out following a rumor of trouble later that night with a group of young pot smokers: "Digger Potts's cotton field was a thing of beauty. Dense and green, with bits of white fluff popping out of the bolls, it stretched from Peach Orchard Road to a line of cottonwood trees overlooking a dry slough." Problem is, the kids unearth something frightening and flee the scene. The mystery involves a hunk of dirt and a collection of human bones, just recent enough to be a problem. Whatever happened here may involve
An old college beau of Penny's has returned to town. Watt Collins, dashing enough to turn any girl's head, now has his own Investigations firm and begins flirting shamelessly with her: "He was as ruggedly handsome as ever. Face just a little thinner maybe, dark hair smudged with gray, same long, thick eyebrows above eyes still hot enough to melt wax. His expensive white cotton shirt was open at the throat, sleeves turned back at the wrists." Best of all, he's divorced. Should she take a second chance on life, or let it pass her by? Even her mother has a love interest.
Meanwhile, there's a hot time in the venerable old town.
's 100th anniversary
has arrived, and not only has a book been commissioned about the founder, the
eccentric Simeon Swann, but a gala "Dinner in the Round" has been
planned, the kick-off first course served in his about-to-be-refurbished
mansion. His son Pearl
and daughter-in-law Merrily will preside at the festivities, with Oysters
Merrily a specialty: "The sun was almost down, a smear of melon red
through the trees. Under crepe myrtles and wisterias dripping purple blossoms, Layton 's business boosters
sat at round tables covered with pink linen tablecloths.." The scene is
set not for dining but for mayhem. Pearl
During the gala, someone very dear is discovered dead on the dusty top floor of the mansion. The death is gruesome. What makes it worse is that Penny was on the phone with the victim, but learned nothing about the attack. She vows to find the murderer, perhaps with the help of their neighbour, Chief of Police Barney Press.
How far back does the mystery go? Rumors have always surrounded Simeon Swann and how he made his fortune in the Gold Rush, crushing anyone who got into his way. A treasure may be at stake and more than one person involved in protecting a personal fortune. Wherever she goes, Penny is met with more lies than truth. Can she even trust Watt Collins? Is he trying to use her or vice versa?
With a wealth of history and a thriving fruit industry, the
Joaquin Valley has
been a neglected part of the
for mysteries, and Pat Browning accepts the challenge. In addition to spinning
a complex and page-turning plot, she toys expertly with romance between Penny
and her old flame. Who could resist liking Penny, with her Audrey Hepburn
aspirations?: "I built myself a spectacular hairdo. I stuck the glittery
brooch right at the top of it. God help me, I was gorgeous..but it wouldn't
Browning also captures the woof-and-warp of a small town newsroom, which walks a narrow line between big news and small news for its demanding subscribers as it struggles in the on-line age. This charming and alarming small town with its collection of eccentrics and colorful history is a perfect place to set an amateur sleuth novel. The clever title is a mere appetizer.
And hallelujah, I'm a bum! A million thanks to the talented and gracious Lou Allin.