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by Kate Collins
Obsidian, December 2007
304 pages
ISBN: 0451222415

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

In an effort to expand her client base, florist Abby Knight has taken a booth at a morticians' convention. The group is not so staid as one might think. As a prank, two obnoxious twins, Jess and Russ Urban, have locked Abby in a coffin-like phone booth. Before the situation gets totally out of hand, Abby is rescued by her lover, Marco, who persuades her that it is not in her best interest to confront the two, since their wealthy father owns a chain of funeral parlors and could easily sabotage Abby's plans.

To compound her problems, Abby finds the body of Sybil Blount, chief organizer of the convention, in a coffin with a tool kit holding down the lid. Determined to pin the crime on the Urban twins, Abby mounts an aggressive campaign to nail the two.

The difficulty is that, loathsome as they are, they have an alibi. So do all the other suspects the eccentric harpist Angelina, the do-it-yourself guru Chet Sunday, and even Mario's favorite suspect, Eli Cotton, who proposes to put the funeral directors out of business by suggesting burials in burlap bags. Indeed, everyone except Abby's friend Delilah, who was seen fighting with Sybil before her death, and who is jailed on suspicion of the murder, seems in the clear.

In the first half of the book, Abby is determined to clear her friend's name, but when Deliliah is released from jail, Abby is determined that she and no one else will solve the murder. She is jealous of her friend Grace, who works with her at Bloomers (Abby's florist shop) and who has struck up a friendship with Walker Billingsworth, a man passing himself off as a retired colonel. Grace seems on her way to besting Abby at sleuthing.

Abby, however, is intrepid, if obnoxious, and in her persistence, she uncovers a scam perpetrated on veterans. The plot moves at a swift pace, showing the merry side of funeral directors, who are cavorting at casket races, the caskets in very odd shapes, such as race cars and TV remote controls.

The most likeable character is Marco, with the British import Grace a close second. Depending on your point of view, Abby is feisty and independent or aggressively unpleasant.

Reviewed by Mary Elizabeth Devine, January 2008

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