Belles of Steel
By Miranda James
Every small Southern town has them – those indomitable women who run all kinds of organizations, from garden and bridge clubs to charitable agencies. Often they come from the town’s oldest families, generation after generation of club women who oil the wheels of the social engine. These were exactly the women I needed when I was working on Out of Circulation, the fourth book in my “Cat in the Stacks” series.
The story revolved around fund-raising efforts for the local public library – in this case, the fictional Athena (Mississippi) Public Library. I needed strong characters for the Friends of the Library Board of Directors, and I counted on disagreements among the members. Has there ever been a committee when members didn’t butt heads over even the most minute of details? Perfect starting point for conflict in a murder mystery, I thought.
In the spring of 2011 I attended the first-ever Daddy’s Girls Weekend, an event put together by my friend and fellow writer, Carolyn Haines, author of the Sarah Booth Delaney series. There I met two sisters, An’gel Ducote Molpus and Dickce Ducote Little, who inspired me to create their fictional counterparts, Miss An’gel and Miss Dickce Ducote.
The fictional sisters are several decades older, unmarried, and childless, yet their characters owe much to their real-life inspirations. The Ducote sisters are the true grandes dames of Athena society, intelligent, hard-working, and intolerant of pretention and snobbery. The conflict between them and the character of Vera Cassity was an essential element of the story, and I had great fun with the scenes involving these characters.
Not long after I finished Out of Circulation I was working on ideas for a second series, one that would feature two older women characters. After discussion with my agent and my editor, we settled on making the Ducote sisters the main characters. I loved them, my editor loved them, and evidently so did my readers. Thus was the new series born.
The first book in the “Southern Ladies” mysteries, Bless Her Dead Little Heart, is officially out on October 7th. The Ducote sisters are on their own as amateur detectives, because Charlie Harris and his family are in France on vacation. They do have the assistance of Diesel, the Maine Coon cat, who makes a cameo appearance in the book. An old sorority sister, Rosabelle Sultan, turns up on the sisters’ doorstep one August afternoon and claims that someone in her family is trying to murder her. Miss An’gel and Miss Dickce know that Rosabelle loves being the center of attention, but this sounds a bit over-the-top even for this self-absorbed socialite. When Rosabelle’s family members follow her to Athena, however, the sisters quickly discover that one of them does have murder in mind.
I had great fun writing this book, letting the sisters have their way. I hope readers will have fun, too, getting to know Miss An’gel and Miss Dickce.
Giveaway: Leave a comment by noon eastern on Friday, October 17th for your chance to win a copy of Bless Her Dead Little Heart. (US entries only, please.)
Blurb: New York Times bestselling author Miranda James returns to Athena, Mississippi, with an all-new mystery featuring Miss An’gel and Miss Dickce Ducote, two snoopy sisters who are always ready to lend a helping hand. But when a stressed socialite brings murder right to their doorstep, even they have trouble maintaining their Southern hospitality…
With the Mississippi sun beating down, An’gel and Dickce are taking a break to cool off and pet sit their friend Charlie Harris’s cat, Diesel, when their former sorority sister, Rosabelle Sultan, shows up at their door unexpectedly, with her ne’er-do-well adult children not far behind.
Rosabelle’s selfish offspring are desperate to discover what’s in her will, and it soon becomes clear that one of them would kill to get their hands on the inheritance. Suddenly caught up in a deadly tangle of duplicitous suspects and deep-fried motives, it will take all of the sisters’ Southern charm to catch a decidedly ill-mannered killer…
Book reviews that are short and sweet...just like Truffles!
Most likely because of Miss Marple, I always find myself drawn to elderly characters in cozy mysteries. They always seem to be so feisty and fun. A prime example is An'gel and Dickce Ducote from Miranda James' amazing Cat in the Stacks mystery series. In my mind's eye I see the Baldwin sisters from The Waltons whenever I read about these two octogenarians. So when I found out that the Ducote sisters were going to star in their very own series I could not have been happier.
It's August in Athena and An'gel and Dickce are looking forward to enjoying a less hectic social calendar as they pet-sit Charlie Harris's beloved Maine Coon cat Diesel. A ring of the doorbell announces the arrival of their former sorority sister Rosabelle Sultan. Convinced that someone in her family is out to kill her after a rash of "accidents" in her home, she's looking for a safe place to lie low for awhile. Then, straight out of an Agatha Christie novel, one by one the dysfunctional family members arrive, and then the dead bodies start piling up. It soon becomes apparent that there is a very devious mind at work that is coming up with simple yet effective and extremely creative methods of murder.
All action in this book takes place in the Ducotes' mansion, except for a single outing for groceries which culminates in the rescue of a dog and cat (laboradoodle Peanut and Abyssinian Endora), soon to become new additions to the Ducote family.
I loved this book. Loved, loved, loved it. I can't wait to see the direction the series goes in with the various additions to the household. One of the best new series of 2014!