Monday, February 3, 2014

CAROLYN HART is a long-time best-selling author of cozy mysteries. Later this year she will be named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America. Dead, White, and Blue is the latest (23 and counting) mystery in her Death on Demand series. The series features amateur detective Annie Darling, owner of the Death on Demand Bookstore in Broward’s Rock, South Carolina. Her husband, Max Darling, enjoys inherited wealth and undertakes confidential commissions as a sort of hobby. He considers himself a problem solver, and is not a licensed Private Investigator.
Although it would seem that a Fourth of July dance would be a happy, relaxed,  occasion, Shell Hurst is making things miserable for her husband, his first wife, her lover, his kids, her blackmailer and just about everyone else. Several days after the dance, Shell’s stepdaughter approaches Max to find her stepmother. Not only is she missing, but so are her new, green Porsche and a waiter from the country club which hosted the dance. Annie and Max begin to investigate. They get help, of course, from some of the other Broward Rock residents: especially local mystery author Emma Clyde, Annie’s dear friend Henny Brawley and Max’s mother Laurel.
Hart’s characters are always reliable, yet utterly unpredictable. Those loveable characters, plus the idyllic-seeming Broward’s Rock are reasons why this series has been going on for so long. But there is another reason why I love these books -- Annie’s bookstore always features a monthly mystery contest. Five books are pictured as watercolor paintings above the coffee bar. From the description of the paintings we, along with Broward Rock customers, are invited to guess the author and title being depicted. I can rarely get one or two, but Henny and Emma always can guess correctly. Annie, as any good bookstore owner should do, also recommends titles for her customers. In this story she mentions over sixty authors and at least 42 titles – that’s enough to create a great list of future cozy reads for me.
In addition to her upcoming Grand Master Award, Hart has won multiple Agatha, Anthony and Macavity awards. She is one of the founders of Sisters in Crime and, in 2007, received the Lifetime Achievement Award at Malice Domestic.

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