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Sugarplum Dead    by Carolyn Hart order for
Sugarplum Dead
by Carolyn Hart
Order:  USA  Can
Avon, 2001 (2000)
Hardcover, Paperback

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* *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

If you want to kick start your holiday mystery season, pick up a copy of Sugarplum Dead. True cozy mystery aficionados will love interrupting their own holiday preparations for its touch of mayhem, intrigue, murder and greed. Annie Darling, owner of the bookstore with the great name Death on Demand, gets caught up in another tangle with the police and murder in this latest in a series. I always greet Annie's appearance with pleasure because I know I'm in for a good read. Hart's knowledge of mysteries and their authors both past and present is vast. She likens happenings in this one to occurrences with protagonists in the mystery field, making you want to see her must read list.

Annie has a to-die-for husband, an eccentric mother-in-law, and a recently discovered stepsister. Throw in a long-lost father and a wealthy aging actress and you have the makings of a good mystery. Annie lives on the sea island of Broward's Rock off the coast of South Carolina. She runs her bookstore and her life with equal enthusiasm. Something always seems to happen to disturb her equanimity, but she soldiers on with an analytical mind and lots of support from her husband Max. Broward's Rock sounds like the kind of place where you'd like to spend a vacation. Scenes in the story come alive, making the reader believe the island really exists ... 'The garden was as mellow as honey and as smooth as Southern whiskey.'

In Sugarplum Dead, Annie is reacquainted with a father who disappeared from her life when she was a child. Annie's father is also stepfather to the actress' niece, Rachel, and they all are enmeshed with each other (like it or not) when Rachel's mother Happy is bludgeoned to death. A fast talking New Ager tries to wrest the actress' fortune from her, much to the dismay of her dead husband's family. Suspects are many and motives for murder pile up. The ending is a complete surprise, solving the mystery and leaving Christmas to reign on that little island.

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