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All The Pretty Hearses
A Bed-and-Breakfast Mystery, No 26
Mary Daheim

William Morrow/Harper Collins
August 2011/ 978-0-06-135158-7
Mystery/ Cozy

Reviewed by Laura Hinds

Judith Flynn is the proprietress of a successful B&B named Hillside Manor. Her husband, Joe Flynn, is a retired homicide detective. Over the years, Judith has inadvertently become involved in nearly as many murder cases as Joe ever had. Why should 2005 be any exception? *There is an author’s note at the beginning of the book stating that the action takes place in early 2005*

This time around though, it’s Joe who is about to be arrested in the murder of a man he was observing in his current capacity as a private investigator. The man was suspected of faking an injury to collect insurance. Yet it wasn’t such a simple case of insurance fraud after all, and Joe is taken into custody after the man is shot dead with Joe’s gun.

Meanwhile, Judith has her hands full with an unpleasant family who has come to the B&B for a family gathering that was auctioned off for charity. With dietary restrictions and personality afflictions, this bunch is enough to drive Judith off her rocker. Fortunately she has her sidekick, cousin Renie there to pitch in, as well as a local newspaper reporter, Addison Kirby.

The book is action packed and full of zany characters and situations, and for a while I felt that there was no way in the world that Daheim could pull all these loose ends together and have a coherent ending. I was sure wrong about that! Daheim even managed to get Judith’s wheelchair-bound mother, Gertrude, out of her tool shed apartment (you do have to read the series to understand), deal with a dead and then missing horse, cope with guests absconding without paying or just plain disappearing, and have Judith almost -- but not quite -- attracted to Addison while Joe is being held by the police. Phew! That was exhausting to summarize, and I’ve only skimmed the surface!

I really enjoyed this book so very much because of the complexity of the various mysteries and because Daheim has again managed to infuse so much humor into her work. Just when it seemed that Judith would be overwhelmed and perhaps melt down, Daheim found a way to give her strength. The story was interesting from start to finish, and I can’t imagine a fan of this series -- or a fan of most cozy mysteries -- not getting a kick out of this one. For me, it was a real page-turner, and although I couldn’t wait to find out whodunit and why, I was sure sad to turn that last page and have no more Judith and company until the next book. This one is a doozy, and I mean that in the best possible way.

Reviewer Laura Hinds is the author of Are You Gonna Eat That Banana?
Reviewed 2011
© 2011