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In Lethal in Old Lace by Duffy Brown, Reagan Summerside has just gotten engaged to Walker Boone, the lawyer who represented her no-good ex-husband in their divorce. Reagan gets dragged by her Aunt Kiki to the wake for Willie Fishbin, one of the meanest men in town. Reagan's and Kiki's friends, sisters Annie Fritz and Elsie Abbot, professional mourners hired by Sleepy Pines Retirement Home, have had trouble luring people to Willie's wake, so Kiki drags Reagan to the event. On the way home, Reagan sees a body sitting in Annie's and Elsie's car. With a reputation for finding bodies, Reagan is afraid to tell Walker that she has found another. But then the body disappears, seemingly freeing Reagan from responsibility for the body. That is, she is free until she spots the body, which she identifies as belonging to Bonnie Sue, another resident of Sleepy Pines, in the window of her consignment shop. But crazily, the body disappears yet again, only to reappear in the sisters' backyard and get found finally by the police.
Reagan and Kiki find some connections between Willie and Bonnie Sue besides the fact that both live at the Sleepy Pines. The pair rode the bus every week together, with Willie's actually laughing with Bonnie Sue, something no one else had ever seen him do. This nasty man conned money out of people like Bonnie Sue and the Abbot sisters by selling stock in the fake Spring Chicken Vitamins, draining them of their savings. And it becomes apparent that Willie was murdered with nuts, to which he had a dangerous allergy. Both people were murdered within the span of a week. Willie also was giving money to Bonnie Sue and included her in his will. The sisters, Annie and Elsie, get arrested but released on bail. It becomes up to Reagan and her Aunt Kiki to solve the case and free their friends.
Lethal in Old Lace is a fun book, but there are so many references to incidents in prior books that the audiobook publisher should have started with the first book in the series instead of starting with the current book in the series. We have learned a lot about the events of earlier books, causing us to lose a degree of the surprise if we later read the books. I really wish that they had started recording with book one instead of jumping in with book five.
That said, I still really had a good time with this book. The plot had some interesting angles to it, and the method used was very creative. Though I've read books with similar methods, I have not encountered this specific method before. The games Reagan and her relatives play with the bodies merely add to the fun and creativity.
The characters in Lethal and Old Lace have a great deal of fun natures. Reagan has a kooky family that you come to love as you gape at their antics. The family, especially her Aunt Kiki, makes us admire Boone all the more for his eagerness to marry Reagan. We gain respect for him as he treats Reagan with the utmost dignity and honor, including refusing her offer to move out of her run-down Cherry House, which she loves so much and is next door to Aunt Kiki on one side and Annie and Elsie on the other. Instead, he insists on moving out of his own fancy house and using it as an office in order to move into her beloved Victorian home that needs a lot of work because he knows how much Cherry House means to Reagan.
I have long been told I should try out books by Duffy Brown because they are so funny. Initially, I didn't catch the humor very much, but as I continued with the book, I saw how much of the humor comes from the characters themselves. Aunt Kiki made me chuckle as she went undercover at Sleepy Pines. Eugenia, the daughter of the owner of Sleepy Pines, humorously works to organize her wedding despite the fact that her boyfriend hasn't proposed, and Reagan knows that he has given the same fancy bracelet to three different women. Then there are the two residents of Sleepy Pines who spend their time fighting over which one loves Bonnie Sue more, with their animosity's even growing to the extent of their challenging each other to a duel.
Amy Tallmadge performs the audio version of Lethal and Old Lace, with clever narration that makes the humor of the book come out more clearly. Tallmadge does a terrific performance that makes this book all the more enjoyable. The experience of listening to this book was truly delightful.
I really enjoyed the fun experience of listening to Lethal and Old Lace. The book has a strong plot, but its true strength is in its creative characters. They provide humor to the book, without the crazy hijinks often used in mysteries to create humor. I really do wish that I had been given the opportunity to listen to the first four books before enjoying this, the fifth in the Consignment Shop Mysteries. If you read your books visually instead of listening to audiobooks, I recommend starting with the first book. But even despite my having to start with book five instead of book one, I give this book five stars!
The jokes are hilarious! I'm laughing out loud at my desk and my coworkers think I'm nuts! The humor is subtle at times and other times it comes at you full force. Duffy Brown is a brilliant author, weaving mystery, friendship, humor and romance into this novel. I just wish the prequels where available in audio book form too. Amy Tallmadge does a wonderful job brining this novel to life. I highly recommend it!