When a murdered waitress is unceremoniously dropped off at his door, charming mortician-about-town Hitchcock Sewell investigates and his delving takes him down an increasingly twisted and wicked trail.
It's a dark and stormy night in Baltimore, and snow isn't the only thing piling up on the front steps of Sewell & Sons Family Funeral Home. There's also trouble. Specifically, a murdered waitress is unceremoniously dropped off at the door while a wake is under way inside. Bad form, no two ways about it. In this witty, page-turning follow-up to Tim Cockey's highly praised first novel, The Hearse You Came In On, charming mortician-about-town Hitchcock Sewell has just one question: Why my place? His meteorologist girlfriend, Bonnie, has bigger fish to fry. The murder is her chance to make the leap from the weather game -- which she stinks at anyway -- to hard news. A few well-timed bats of Bonnie's big blues, and Hitch is ready to roll.
Starting at the seedy airport lounge restaurant where Helen, the murdered woman, worked, and with the reluctant assistance of her estranged sister, Hitch and Bonnie begin to learn more about the woman's past than they really care to know. Daughter of a stripper, nude model, small-time porn actress, single mother of a three-year-old son. Apparently Helen was determined to shake her tawdry past, but did her past catch up with her anyway? Could her son's father -- identity unknown -- have been the killer? Or maybe her "business manager" in the sex trade? How about one of those lonely business travelers who trawl the airport lounge? Maybe the big guy on the keyboards in the lousy lounge band? Or, for that matter, his jealous wanna-be partner?
Hitch's investigation takes him down an increasingly twisted and wicked trail -- from Baltimore's low-life strip joints to its high-tone mansions -- where he discovers the full scope of the nasty impulses that led to Helen's death. Having planned only to dabble, he's getting in over his head. Luckily, Hitch is a fast learner. At least, he'd better be.
The dead waitress had beautiful eyes. Large, chocolate and lovely. Of course, this was something I couldn't possibly know until some time later, once I had the chance to see them in a photograph. As usual with me, I get them when the spark has gone out and they're already losing their looks. Aunt Billie has a term for this. She calls it "occupational disappointment."
The waitress couldn't have arrived at a more inopportune moment. Baltimore was right in the middle of an unscheduled pre-Christmas blizzard and Aunt Billie and I were right in the middle of a wake. A heart surgeon from nearby Johns Hopkins Hospital had gone out in a blaze of irony two days previous, struck down by a heart attack, no less, while in the middle of performing a triple bypass. His name was Richard Kingman. Dr. Kingman had been in his late fifties, played tennis several times a week, hadn't touched a cigarette for decades, ate sensibly, drank politely and all the rest, and yet ...
If you liked Hearse of a Different Color, try these:
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Lots of action, quirky characters, an engaging new sleuth who designs greeting cards, and a ferret named Margaret -- what more could any reader want? Dating Dead Men is a superb debut.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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