Charmed Bones by Carolyn Haines (Supernatural Mystery Novel, 2018).
The latest Sarah Booth Delaney novel (18th in the series, if I haven’t miscounted) is a fun, cozy mystery that blends a colorful Mississippi Delta setting with often playful supernatural elements, plenty of misdirection, some romance and the expected greedy and/or murderous evil doers who must be exposed and stopped.
Lead character Sarah is the spirited failed actress who long ago gave up on Broadway fame and returned to her small hometown of Zinnia, Mississippi. She set up her own detective agency with her overly-credulous pal Tinkie. Her household includes a black cat and a dog (both loyal, brave and smarter than most of the humans around them) and the ghost of a former Civil War-era servant (who constantly, if lovingly nags Sarah about finding herself a man). Sarah is presently more-or-less single, but there is local lawman Coleman Peters as a decidedly eager prospect.
Are they ever going to get together for more than crime solving? You bet. But only after numerous, sometimes humorous and other times work-related complications.
The driving force to the plot this time is the arrival in town of three beautiful young sisters (Faith, Hope and Charity Harrington). They’re educators out to open a private boarding school at the estate of rich, but eccentric and notoriously womanizing local artist Trevor Musgrove. Oh, and they are also self-proclaimed ‘good witches.’
The latter identity sets off controversy among Zinnia’s conservatives. Meanwhile, their plans also pit them against the Fontanas (Bob, Kitten and their loose-cannon son Corey). Ruthless real estate developers and self-serving schemers, they’ve had their eyes on the Musgrove estate and don’t take kindly to the Harringtons arrival.
Sarah isn’t sure if she believes in ‘real’ witches (despite having a ghost at home), and is afraid they will hurt her impressionable partner by building up false hopes in their ability to magically help barren Tinkie conceive the child she’s long craved.
Several wild cards here include a scandal-mongering journalist with the hots for Trevor, a prison inmate who claims not to be who she seems, dark forces that may or may not be lurking in the nearby woods and two self-proclaimed supporters of the witch babes whose true motives look extremely questionable.
Before long bodies start turning up and the plot gets progressively more complicated before resolving itself in satisfactory fashion.
Charmed Bones (like all in the series, ‘Bones’ is part of the title) proves a worthy addition to this genre-blending array of mystery novels.