“Tuscaloosa Boneyard: An Addie Bramson Mystery”
Author: Carolyn Breckinridge
Publisher: Author House
Price: $22.95 (Paper)
Carolyn Ezell, writing as Carolyn Breckinridge, introduced her Tuscaloosa detective Addie Bramson in “Tuscaloosa Moon: A Murder Mystery,” 2013.
Now Bramson is back in “Tuscaloosa Boneyard.”
This title, “Boneyard,” suggests more death and mayhem than the novel actually involves.
Addie and her partner, R. J., are called to investigate first an attack on Bob Tulane, a perfectly fit young tree surgeon, by a gorgeous female stranger who saunters up to him at the corner of Greensboro and University, in high heels, wearing white gloves and smelling of vanilla, then breaks his nose.
Shortly thereafter, they will investigate a series of daytime burglaries of art which would have in only a few days been for sale at Kentuck, the annual West Alabama folk and art festival.
The first is the work of Ellie Elizabeth Donning, a neurosurgeon’s wife, who crafts jewelry from silver and semi-precious stones, jade, turquoise, quartz. The Donnings live near the Yacht Club.
Two more burglaries occur in the pleasant but far less tony neighborhood of Forest Lake. One artist created jewelry out of coins, the other jewelry made by hand painting small ceramic beads. All could be easily transported and fenced.
We meet a creepy young thug name Tony who is surely guilty of something.
We also meet Eriq Randolph Higgenbothum, an aspiring artist who creates sculptures out of dried fruits and vegetables. None of his work is stolen.
When Addie is not actively investigating these crimes and more, she enjoys a rather blissful domestic life with Dr. Luke Bramson, her husband and assistant director of Metamorphosis, a local youth residential facility.
Of course, Metamorphosis treats some wayward youth so the Bramsons connect two spheres of Tuscaloosa “society.”
Nearly ubiquitous is the lawyer Carlton Chambers Thornton III, my favorite character. This fellow has rented dozens of billboards and smiles down from all of them—yes, this is actually done—wearing his trademark bow tie, a hundred-dollar bill, a Ben Franklin, made by origami. As slimy a creature as one could conjure, Thornton is a patron of local artists, and—stretching credulity—has a very high batting average as a defense lawyer.
As may be evident, this is a heavily populated novel.
Hattie Louise Cooper, a recent widow, sits in her rocking chair in Greenwood Cemetery, the “Boneyard” of the novel, talking with her deceased husband, Henry. He answers. A major subject for them is the selfish behavior of their daughter Jubaleigh, who has three children, Mercadies, Porcia and baby Lexis. Jubaleigh is neglectful, even gives little Lexis away to strangers from time to time, which brings her into contact, shall we say, with child services.
The searches for the world’s worst mother and most despicable lawyer are over.
Hattie is being courted by Noah, a volunteer worker in dog rescue. Noah’s assistant is young Benjamin, who is serving court-ordered community service. He was represented by the bow-tie man.
You get the picture.
Ezell has created an ensemble of colorful and peculiar characters, set them all in motion, scene by scene, in Tuscaloosa and Cottondale. There is even an expedition to Gulf Shores.
Ezell is herself a retired Licensed Clinical Social Worker, and the novel reflects her lifelong interest and experience in that field, especially as it concerns youth at risk, youth therapy, foster care and adoption. One could say the novel is as much about child and adolescent problems and services as it is about crime, although the two certainly intersect.
“Tuscaloosa Boneyard “is overlong at 456 pages mainly because Ezell loves her creation and describes every room, all meals etc., at length, but it has spirit, vitality, and, having generated so many plotlets, it takes time to bring most to fruition—most, not all. There will be a third Addie Bramson mystery.
Don Noble is host of the Alabama Public Television literary interview show “Bookmark with Don Noble.” A shorter form of this review was originally broadcast on Alabama Public Radio.