Reviewed by Jennie Hansen

Hansen_departedTristi Pinkston has continued her Secret Sisters Mystery Series with Dearly Departed.  Once again the group of elderly women who were once the Relief Society Presidency in a small rural ward set out to solve a mystery.  They are aided by Eden, the granddaughter of one of the trio.

The story begins with Ida Mae breaking her ankle through an unfortunate mishap.  Her stubborn refusal to admit she needs help results in another fall and another break, a wrist.  She’s not a happy patient, though her friends Arletta and Tansy do their best to help her.  She quickly tires of the endless supply of chicken casseroles delivered by the Relief Society sisters of her ward and becomes bored with nothing to do, so when Eden arrives and tells her about an obituary she wrote for the newspaper that employs her and the  suspicion she shares with the dead woman’s daughter concerning the woman’s unexpected demise, she’s eager to become involved.

Eden and her friend, a crime reporter, discover the woman’s doctor has been murdered.  This calls for drastic action and arrangements are made to admit Ida Mae to the convalescent center where the first suspicious death occurred and where the murdered doctor was employed.  Now they’re investigating two murders and Ida Mae soon involves a couple of other residents of the center in her sleuthing.  Arletta begins an extended stay with her granddaughter and Tansy makes frequent visits.  Eden’s investigative reporter friend is dragged into the fray as well.

There’s plenty of action when Ida Mae gains access to a motorized wheelchair and it isn’t all in the line of duty.  An elderly gentleman takes a fancy to her and she doesn’t know whether to run away as fast as her classy set of wheels will take  her or relax and enjoy the first romantic attention that has come her way in more years than she can count.

Eden is having her own romance problems.  Kevin, the reporter, makes her heart skip, but she’s sort of waiting for Ren who is serving a mission and who was her love interest in the first Secret Sisters mystery.

Clumsy antics and good intentions lead to endangered lives.  And what’s another murder or two?

I liked this book.  As far as mysteries go, this one is a little lame and easily solved early on.  The romances are terribly low key.  The humor is a little on the slapstick side.  So why did I like it?  It’s a fun romp, not to be taken too seriously. It’s a preposterous joke, a spoof, that, overall, is outrageously funny.  It pokes fun at the old lady sleuth, who along with solving mysteries is a marvelous cook, type of mystery that continues to hold a prominent spot on bookstore shelves after more than a decade. It picks on the intrepid newspaper reporter who goes where no police detective dares tread. It turns sappy romance into “okay, let’s be friends.”  Instead of a handsome hero we have an elderly retired circus performer. Our heroine’s “hot wheels” is a power wheel chair. It does all this and more without being mean, derogatory, or whining. 

The characters are exaggerated caricatures of people we all know and Pinkston does an excellent job of keeping them in character.  The plot arc is a little wobbly, but it somehow fits. The copy editing is in need of closer attention, but readers of all ages will enjoy this one.

Tristi Pinkston is a freelance editor and online writing instructor.  She is also a popular writing conference presenter and blogger.  This is her sixth published novel.  Pinkston lives in Utah with her husband and four children.  She home schools her children and is an avid movie buff.

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DEARLY DEPARTED, a Secret Sisters Mystery, by Tristi Pinkston, published by Walnut Springs Press, softcover, 270 pages, $16.95