Books
9:33 am
Mon February 23, 2009

Wishbones, by Carolyn Haines

Wishbones is the eighth in Carolyn Haines' "Bones" series, and is a little different from its predecessors. The series' premises were set out in Them Bones. Sarah Booth Delaney returns to her home, Dahlia House, in Zinnia, Mississippi, Sunflower County, because the family place is threatened with foreclosure. Sarah Booth's parents died in a crash when she was twelve and she has been in NYC in a not very successful attempt to establish a career as an actress. Back in Zinnia she runs into a murder mystery, solves it, and in the course of the first couple of books sets up a detective agency.

Wishbones is the eighth in Carolyn Haines' "Bones" series, and is a little different from its predecessors. The series' premises were set out in Them Bones. Sarah Booth Delaney returns to her home, Dahlia House, in Zinnia, Mississippi, Sunflower County, because the family place is threatened with foreclosure. Sarah Booth's parents died in a crash when she was twelve and she has been in NYC in a not very successful attempt to establish a career as an actress. Back in Zinnia she runs into a murder mystery, solves it, and in the course of the first couple of books sets up a detective agency.

The mysteries are solved and the books are successful largely because of the ensemble cast Haines created. She takes a business partner, Tinkie, a diminutive ex-debutante; Cece, who is a transsexual, and now the gossip columnist/researcher for the local paper; and Millie, who runs the caf?, where all local news can be learned. Oddest of all is Jitty, an African-American ghost, once a slave on the Delaney plantation, now a benign and helpful spirit who likes to play dress-up. This cast works like the gang at Cheers or Seinfeld or the six Friends: the chemistry of the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

But, after just a few books, the little town of Zinnia threatens to become as corpse-covered as Cabot Cove in Murder, She Wrote.

Haines heads off this dilemma. In number seven, Ham Bones, a road production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof plays in Zinnia because the theatre in New Orleans was destroyed. When the lead actress is killed, Sarah Booth gets the part of Maggie and is a stunning success. In Wishbones she has won the lead in a remake of the film Body Heat, and is in Hollywood and on location, in the mansion of Federico Marquez, the famous director, in Petaluma, on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica.

Needless to say, soon there are "accidents," mysterious goings-on, a death. The mansion is straight out of Jane Eyre or The Castle of Otranto. The eyes of the portrait follow you. Several characters are knocked unconscious and Sarah Booth is tied to a rock at the shore to drown. A woman in red appears and when chased, disappears. There must be a ghost, and/or secret passageways in the old place.

When not shooting, Sarah Booth turns back into detective Delaney, flies Tinkie and Millie down to help, and even Jitty appears, somewhat reluctantly, because she is really only supposed to haunt Dahlia House.

Besides location, there are other changes. The Bones books had never been filled with violence, pain, torture or gore, but this one is even more of a "cozy" than the earlier seven. Wishbones is positively soft-boiled.

In earlier versions, Sarah Booth was amusingly harassed by Jitty about not having reproduced, to continue the Delaney line. There was a good deal of comedy about the Delaney womb. This novel moves from the Delaney womb to the Delaney heart. Wishbones comes perilously close to romance fiction. Sarah Booth has given up on Sheriff Coleman Peters, who still hasn't left his wife. She becomes involved with her handsome costar, Graf Milieu, confessing, "He was turning me from a responsible actress/private investigator into a wanton. My will crumbled, and I put my arms around his neck, kissing him back. As much as I wanted to talk with Federico . . . , I wanted Graf more."

Not that there's anything wrong with that. Wishbones is more of a read for women than any of the earlier. Men should begin with Them Bones and move forward, as taste permits.

At the end of this novel, Sarah and Tinkie are headed back to Sunflower County. I look forward to seeing the whole cast in action again in Bones number nine.

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