I went on a Joan Hess bender and read 5 more of the Claire Malloy mysteries. Fun!
A Diet To Die For by Joan Hess (Claire Malloy, #5): In this entry, Claire's daughter is determined to slim down, and she drags her friend Inez along as she tries several diets (none of which lasts more than a few hours). Coincidentally, Claire's neighbor persuades Claire to help depressed Maribeth shed a few pounds and gain some confidence by joining a new health club. When Maribeth dies, Claire is convinced it was murder and sets out to investigate. Caron and Inez's dieting is hilarious, and if the solution was a smidge telegraphed, it was still enjoyable. I did wish that Maribeth's jerk of a husband had died instead of Maribeth, but the mystery was interesting.
Roll Over and Play Dead by Joan Hess (Claire Malloy, #6): Claire, not exactly an animal lover, is talked into dog-sitting for Nick and Nora. When the dogs disappear (along with neighbors' pets), Claire investigates. Instead of the missing animals, she finds the dead body of Newton Churls, her prime suspect. When the good-ol'-boy sheriff seems uninterested in solving the case of the missing animals, Claire (and her daughter) sets out to find them. The treatment of animals by the bad guys in this book is upsetting, but the mystery is satisfying, and the neighbors are very entertaining.
Death by the Light of the Moon by Joan Hess (Claire Malloy, #7): Claire and her daughter are summoned to the Malloy family home in the Louisiana bayous by Miss Justicia, Caron's grandmother. Claire's husband had avoided his family, and it's obvious why. Miss Justicia has summoned everyone so that she may change her will in as dramatic a way as possible. When Miss Justicia dies, apparently in an accident, Claire insists on looking into the death further. This was one of the best in the series so far. I love the eccentric old relative changing her will angle, and the relatives assembled are a crackup. The mystery is fun and involved, and Caron's reaction to her gene pool is excellent. I've read some reviews that complain about Caron's "annoying teenager" behavior as a major part of the books, but I really enjoy her. You can see from her speech patterns and reactions to events that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, and she's really funny in her teenaged drama.
Poisoned Pins by Joan Hess (Claire Malloy, #8): This wasn't my favorite in the series, but it was still enjoyable. Caron decides to earn money by become a "Your Beautiful Self" consultant (read: Mary Kay spoof), a suggestion made by one of the sorority girls in the house next door. This is actually really, really funny, though I had to overlook the fact that in the previous 7 books, it's never been mentioned once that there's a sorority house next door. One of the sorority girls dies in a hit-and-run and Claire investigates, finding that the sorority isn't as squeaky clean as it appears. The plot was kind of convoluted--Hess's plots are always tangled and complicated, but in a good way--this way maybe a bit much, but it was fun nonetheless. Like Claire, I never had the urge to rush a sorority, so I enjoyed her spoofing, and Caron was a hoot as always.
Tickled To Death by Joan Hess (Claire Malloy, #9): Claire's good friend Luanne (the one who roped her into running a pageant in #4) demands Claire's help clearing her new boyfriend of his second wife's murder. The sheriff is harassing Dick, determined to prove that he killed one or both of his wives. I guessed a key part of the solution, but it didn't diminish the fun. Caron and Claire head to Turnstone Lake, Claire to investigate and Caron to work as a guide to birders visiting the area (anyone familiar with the books will crack up at the thought of Caron being a guide in the woods). Caron is predictably (but hilariously) dramatic about the torture she endures (getting up early, eating mush for breakfast, tromping through the woods), and Claire reluctantly gets closer to the truth of Dick's wives' deaths. A murder complicates her investigation. The plotting in this one was really strong, and it was really an enjoyable mystery.
My review of Strangled Prose (Claire Malloy, #1)
My reviews of #2 (The Murder at the Murder at the Mimosa Inn) and #3 (Dear Miss Demeanor)
My review of A Really Cute Corpse (Claire Malloy, #4)