Anne George, 2001 (Southern Sisters #8)
When an Elvis impersonator is murdered onstage in the middle of a performance, Mary Alice (“Sister”) and Patricia Anne (“Mouse”) get improbably stuck in the middle of another murder and its subsequent investigation in this Southern cozy mystery.
The two sisters are as different as can be. Patricia Anne, the first-person narrator, is a retired high school teacher. She is small of stature, drily humorous with her husband and her sister, and a good neighbor in her Birmingham, AL neighborhood. Mary Alice, the older of the sisters, claims to be 64 but is really 66. She is big, brash, friendly, and kind, even if a bit intrusive from time to time. Together the sisters make a solid team, assisted by husbands, fiances, adult children, friends, and neighbors.
The author clearly knows Birmingham well and educates her readers about the city. At one point there is a reference to the old way of life in Birmingham, involving personal staff like nannies, maids, “yardmen.” It’s an uncomfortable passage, with no acknowledgment of the class, and probably race, division inherent in the ‘old ways.’ To be fair, Ms. George does not glorify that time; it’s an imagining.
I acknowledge that bringing this passage up takes me out of my comfort zone. I am not qualified to fix this, but it shouldn’t be ignored. I suspect that based on the genre, any attempt on her part to acknowledge the reality of life in the deep South in the past would have been discouraged by the publisher. Regardless, the author’s glossing over of this aspect has dropped my review of an otherwise enjoyable story from 5 stars to 3. Without that weird passage about servants, we would be at 4 stars.
Here’s a takeaway question for those of you who have read the series: How would the narratives and characters be different if Mary Alice were the narrator instead of Patricia Anne? (Maybe she is, in some of the books. I don’t know; because they are easy reads I will probably read the remaining books in the series.)