Cozy mysteries aren’t something that oft find themselves in my TBR. It’s not that I don’t enjoy them, it’s just that they’re not typically something I pick up. As luck would have it, I did pick up several in last year’s library sale at the fairgrounds, and Carolyn Hart’s White Elephant Dead (1999) is the second cozy read I’ve read this month!
White Elephant Dead is a Death on Demand novel featuring the amateur sleuthing styles of mystery bookstore owner Annie Darling and her attorney (though not barred in South Carolina) and PI (though not licensed in South Carolina) wealthy husband, Max. The novel opens with seemingly unrelated snippets into the lives of several residents of Broward’s Rock, but the reader quickly gets a clue – Kathryn Girard, member of the Women’s Club, is not who she says she is. By the end of the first chapter, Annie has found her dead body and her friend, Henny, is missing.
The young buck of a new police chief, who isn’t that good at his job (as is part of the formula for these sorts of books) is quick to finger Henny as the main suspect. Even after she’s found by the boy scouts with a head injury and no memory of the events, Chief Garrett is still prepared to charge her for the murder of Kathryn Girard, or whoever she really was.
Luckily for Henny, Annie’s on the case. Armed with the list of addresses Kathryn was supposed to be visiting to pick up items for the upcoming Women’s Club white elephant sale, Annie and Max set about clearing Henny’s name and finding the real murderer. Renowned mystery writer of the Marigold Rembrandt stories and local celebrity, Emma Clyde, joins them.
The book is a treasure trove for lovers of the genre. Since our protagonist owns a mystery bookstore, she is pretty much the expert on mysteries; the pages are just littered with references to other works as she uses her literary knowledge to piece together the clues. And much like Annie Darling, Carolyn Hart knows and loves her genre. From Agatha Christie to Lilian Jackson Braun, Hart shows her love for the craft – there should be a reading challenge for all the references in this novel alone!
If you love the genre, you’ve probably already encountered Hart. If you’re like me and just tipping your toe in for a quick little fun read, White Elephant Dead won’t disappoint.