The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

July 8, 2013

Patty Crane: Mysteries too intriguing to ignore, despite best efforts

By Frankie Meyer
Globe Columnist

JOPLIN, Mo. — I recently browsed the new bookshelves at the library intending to find something that was not a mystery.

But I just can't help myself. What drew my attention were "The Hero Pose" by Glen Ebisch and "Smarty Bones" by Carolyn Haines.

Ebisch's slim mystery is a good, quick read for a busy summer. The story is about Allison Randall, a former military MP who was injured in Iraq. She spent just three weeks in rehab at Bethesda before she left the hospital and the Army with as much damage to her soul as her hip.

Heading north, she drove with no destination in mind until an encounter with a deer stopped her on a road in Maine. The young woman who came to her assistance took her to the Savasana Retreat Center. With nowhere to go and no way to get there, Allison stays at the center to learn yoga and heal.

Leaving the center 18 months later as a certified yoga teacher, she drives south along the coast of Maine until she finds Cornwell. In Cornwell, Allison can walk the beach. It's a resort town where she can keep her involvement with others to a minimum.

She decides to stay, open a yoga studio and settle into a solitary life. Her solitary existence is challenged when one of her clients asks her to investigate the disappearance of her boyfriend, Dr. Jim Schianno.

As the girlfriend of the still-married Dr. Jim, Lauren feels the police aren't taking her worries seriously. Not wanting to lose a paying client, Allison reluctantly agrees to see what she can find out.

As she delves further into the case Allison discovers a mystery woman, a murder and a hit-and-run accident. Her reluctance turns into a need to know Dr. Jim's fate. With his history of helping married women, did Dr. Jim leave town with one? Or is he being blackmailed? Or was he murdered?

"Smarty Bones" is also a murder-mystery and a fairly quick read despite being heftier than "The Hero Pose." I picked it for the sassy cover and then saw it is No. 13 of the "Sarah Booth Delaney" mystery series.

I read it even though I usually like to start with the first book in a series. I enjoyed it and didn't feel lost even though I didn't have the back story of the first 12 adventures.

Sarah is a private investigator in Zinnia, Miss. She inherited the family plantation when her parents died and she lives there with her fianc┼Że, Graf, and Jitty, the ghost of her great-great grandmother's nanny.

Sarah is enjoying the late summer and time with Graf when she receives a visit from an outraged Frances Malone. Frances was a friend of Sarah's mother and is a Delta society lady. A northern interloper by the name of Olive Twist is in town and about to besmirch the name of two of Zinnia's oldest families using the Lady in Red.

In 1969 the casket of the Lady in Red was unearthed by a backhoe operator. The unknown woman was dressed in a red gown and perfectly preserved in an alcohol-filled glass casket. No one claimed her and she was reburied in a cemetery in a nearby town.

Professor Twist says she has proof that the Lady in Red was involved in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. She has come to Zinnia to disinter the Lady in Red and to prove that she is related to either the Richmond or the Falcon families.

Sarah's investigative partner, Tinkie, is married to a Richmond and her good friend, CeCe, is a Falcon. Frances implores Sarah to stop Olive before she ruins the reputation of her friendsâ families.

However, before Sarah and Tinkie get too far into the investigation the professor's assistant is poisoned. Finding herself a suspect, Olive wants to hire Sarah to prove she is innocent. Going by the adage "keep your friends close and your enemy closer," Sarah and Tinkie take the case.

This humorous mystery turns more serious at the end but is still a perfect companion for a lazy summer day.

Patty Crane is reference librarian for the Joplin Public Library.