In Digging Up the Dirt by Miranda James, the Athena, Mississippi Garden Club officers meet with excitement to welcome Hadley Patridge back to their town upon inheriting the family estate from his recently decreased brother after having been gone for 40 years. Always having seen Hadley as the most eligible bachelor in the community, the single women of a certain age in Athena squabble to try to become the new Mrs. Partridge. Octogenarians Miss An’gel and her sister Miss Dickcee Ducote, the aristocracy of Athena, though not eager to marry, are not completely resistant to Hadley’s charms themselves.
However, when invited to visit Hadley in order to help him plan the restoration of his garden, the sisters’ dog uncovers the bones of a woman buried next to an oak that has fallen in the recent massive storm. Then they discover their cat playing with a ring she has found there too. Could this be Callie, the sister-in-law of Hadley, who was suspected of having run away with Hadley when he moved to Britain 40 years earlier? The Ducote sisters determine to find the answer, and they enlist the help of their ward, Benji, to do their research.
This book gives plenty flavor of life in rural Mississippi among the upper crust. I enjoyed the contrast that we get between the two series set in Athena. The first, The Cat in the Stacks series, centers around a middle class librarian, while this series shows life among those once considered too socially superior for the likes of librarian Charlie Harris even to talk to. The aging sisters do not show the snobbery imagined of their class, showing a strong sense of humanity and fun characters. I especially enjoyed seeing the way these childless women have discovered new life in investing in the future of Benji.
Jorjeana Marie performs the narration of this novel and brings the sisters to life. I really enjoyed the listening experience.
I have come to enjoy the writing of Miranda James, the nom de plume of Dean James, very much. I love the characters of the Ducote sisters, but I like the materials in the Cat in the Stacks books better. I also thought the motive of the crimes in Digging Up the Dirt seemed rather ridiculous. Thus, I give this book four stars.
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