by Sandra Ardoin
The second book in Mary Ellis’ Secrets of the South Mysteries series, What Happened on Beale Street, released this month. You’ll find my review of the first book Midnight on the Mississippi here.
This story focuses mostly on Nicki Price’s cousin and Price Investigations employer, Nate. It begins when the rookie PI responds to a mysterious plea for help from a childhood best friend in Memphis. When the grieving and inexperienced Nicki alienates the Memphis police, it’s up to Nate to investigate the case.
I enjoyed getting to know Nate better. He can be a bit of a young curmudgeon, but who can blame him with Nicki around? Poor man, down deep, he adores her, but she can drive him crazy. This exchange between the cousins is a perfect example.
Nate snatched the key from her fingers. ‘I’ll give you five minutes. This had better be good or you will end up bald.’
Nicki clucked her tongue. ‘Such violent talk from you. Where does all this latent hostility come from?’
Nate opened the door to his suite and waved her inside. ‘Some women bring out the tender side in men. Others instigate duels, start world wars, and prompt men to sign up for the space program. Guess which kind you are.’
In high school, Nate had a crush on stuck-up Isabelle Andre, sister of the missing man. When they meet again in Memphis, he’s still smitten, but she has her own problems with grief and guilt over her brother’s death, an annoying ex-husband, and a dangerous stalker.
There’s a lot going on in this book—two mysteries, a separate suspense thread, and a romance, yet it works without seeming crowded. The romance moves a little fast, not really getting a good start until the second half of the book, so the way that thread concluded came across as a bit improbable to me, but not enough to take away from my enjoyment of the book.
I’d mark this as my favorite Mary Ellis novel so far. The spiritual side is included, but light. And for those who oppose drinking alcohol (not drunkenness) by a main character, be warned. But if you like your mystery on the lighter side and with a few quirky characters, this one will do.
When you read novels in a particular genre other than romance, how much romance do you want the book to contain? Overwhelming? 50-50? Little? None? Does it depend on the genre?