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Hush My Mouth: A Southern Fried Mystery    by Cathy Pickens order for
Hush My Mouth
by Cathy Pickens
Order:  USA  Can
Minotaur, 2008 (2008)
* *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

In Cathy Pickens' fourth charming mystery, Hush My Mouth (following the successful Hog Wild, Done Gone Wrong, and Southern Fried), readers rejoin Avery Andrews, transplanted attorney-at-law, as she tackles one of her more challenging murder-and-mayhem cases.

Fran French of Atlanta has driven to Avery's hometown (Dacus, South Carolina), and wants Avery's help in finding Neanna Lyles, Fran's close friend (and adopted sister) who has seemingly vanished without a trace during a recent visit to Dacus.

Neanna, according to Fran, had come to Dacus ostensibly to attend a rock band's performance at The Pasture, a local nightclub, but Fran thinks Neanna had actually traveled to Dacus in hopes of finding out more information about her aunt's unsolved murder in Dacus in 1985. More accustomed to the practice of law (having had a successful practice in Columbia, South Carolina, prior to relocating to her hometown near the Blue Ridge Mountains) and reluctant to function as a private investigator (and finder of a missing person), Avery nevertheless agrees to help the young woman from Atlanta.

Immediately, Avery knows that she is dealing simultaneously with two mysteries: what happened to Neanna Lyles, and what happened to Neanna's aunt (Wenda Sims). Barely beginning her preliminary inquiries, Avery faces major setbacks and the dual mysteries are exacerbated when a dead woman (an apparent suicide) is found in a car in a remote area near Dacus; when the body is identified as Neanna's, Fran vehemently insists that her sister's death could not have been suicide though the local police consider the case closed.

So, as Avery and Fran team up to pursue a few tenuous clues - digging through the small town's past - their progress, with the assistance of a charming police officer named Rudy Mellin (former high school classmate of Avery's), is strangely complicated by members of a motorcycle gang, a mysterious hitchhiker, Neanna's former boyfriend, Wenda's family, enigmatic photographs, aging playboys, and - most baffling - a team of ghost hunters who have arrived in Dacus looking for evidence of spectral disturbances.

Witty and entertaining, Hush My Mouth is a congenial cozy mystery overflowing with quirky and eccentric characters, plenty of southern charm, and even though the ultimate solution to the crimes may be a bit too surprising (perhaps without sufficient fair-play clues for the reader), the overall reading experience is a fun-filled diversion.

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