This poorly written book is a murder mystery in which no less than 3 people turn up dead. It's part of a series about Arly Hanks, a divorced woman in her 30s who is the entire police force over a tiny southern town named Maggody.
When Matt Montana, an up-and-coming country singer claims he was born in Maggody and plans to go home for Christmas, things start to happen. The town residents -- portrayed as one stereotyped country boob after another-- get celebrity fever as each of them greedily schemes how to make money off of Maggody being Matt Montana's birth place. Along the way, 3 people end of up dead and while I forced myself to finish the book, only 2 of the deaths were explained. Unbelievably, the third death was not cleared up.
Here's why I hated the book. First, there are no sympathetic characters in this book-- not even the protagonist, Arly Hanks. A list of a few of the southern hicks that populate the town are an obese newlywed (many jokes about how many chins she has) who fears her husband is stepping out on her, a moonshiner constantly in need of a bath complete with a large pet pig, a slick, hypocritical, greedy minister, a convenience store clerk with crooked teeth, beady eyes, as well as a low IQ, and a henpecked husband. The main thrust of the humor in the book is to portray southerners in every negative, stereotypical way possible. I don't mind some politically incorrect jokes, but this got to be too much. The book would have been a lot better if at least a few of the residents of Maggody were decent, sincere people. Every town no matter how big or small (be it Manhatten or Maggody) has its share of fools, but there are also wonderful, genuine denizens no matter how thick their accents may be.
To add to matters, Arly Hanks was little more than an after thought in the book. It was clear she was recovering from an unhappy divorce, but almost NOTHING happens in her life in the course of this book. No love interest, no good friends, heck, even her mother was a bumpkin who tended to lecture her.
The final insult to the reader is that the third death is not explained AND the author is aware of this. At the end of the book, she has Arly saying to a police detective from another town that while the third death looks suspicious, it's not under her jurisdiction so she wouldn't pursue it. What??!! I feel cheated! Even a bad murder mystery ties up all the loose ends.
The book fails on every level and I don't plan on reading another Joan Hess mystery. Life is too short to risk investing time in another novel by this author.