Southern Ghost, the eighth book in the Death on Demand series by Carolyn G. Hart is a much-deserving winner the 1992 Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity awards for Hart, then-president of Sisters in Crime. In this book, Max takes the lead from Annie, who usually gets the pair embroiled in their mystery cases. Max starts investigating a 22 year old death, reaching back to 1970.
Beautiful blond Courtney Kimball, who has grown up the daughter of a wealthy couple who adopted her, turns to Max to locate her birth parents. She has found a letter indicating that Ross Tarrant, of another highly wealthy and influential South Carolina family, is her birth father. The letter makes a point to emphasize that Ross is not to blame for an unspecified sin/crime, and Courtney wants to learn the circumstances of her birth. Furthermore, she is eager to get to the truth of Ross’ death, which, so the story goes, involved Ross killing himself in 1970 with a gun, the horror and grief of which caused his own father, Judge Tarrant, to die immediately of a heart attack.
But then Courtney disappears, and discussion with the witnesses from 22 years earlier reveals that Judge Tarrant died from a gunshot, and someone was with Ross when the judge was found dead, clearly demonstrating the fictionalized nature of the long-accepted story.
This book is a trip into the past and the events of Vietnam and the killings at Kent State, while Max and Annie in the present grow ever-increasingly frantic in the search for Courtney, well aware that if no one finds a missing person within the first 48 hours of disappearance, the probabilities of finding that person drop dangerously.
Southern Ghosts takes on a different attitude from the more lighthearted and sometimes silly other books in Death on Demand. This contrast contributes well to the strength of this book. As a stand-alone book, this book would likely get 4 stars. But connected with the other books in the series, Southern Ghost gets 5 stars for the way it blends the current content of the seven previous books, bringing in such regular characters as Laurel and Miss Dora, with the additional content of a book set in the present but revisits the days of the past.
In addition, the audio version deserves 5 stars in and of itself, as Kate Reading does an excellent job of performing this book.
I most certainly recommendSouthern Ghosts to all readers who enjoy cozy mysteries. It is a great read!
Southern Ghost (Death on Demand Mysteries, No. 8) is available through Amazon.