It's Friday again, and that means: Friday's Forgotten Books Meme hosted by Patti at PATTINASE. This week, my entry is the first in a most delightful cozy series by Nancy Bell: BIGGIE AND THE POISONED POLITICIAN. But, in truth, I want to bring this entire series to your attention - if you haven't heard of it or read it already.
Now, all these books are Cozies with a capital C, and how can you tell? Well, by the titles AND by the absolutely delightful covers which are worth the price of the books themselves. These are some of my favorite covers and looking at them always makes me smile, especially the early ones. I do love it when a publisher takes the time to package a series really well. The artwork by Ken Joudrey is wonderful. See more of Joudrey's work at his website, here.
And now for the interior of the books: Biggie Weatherford is a small town grande dame with her own eccentric way of doing things. Her grandson J.R., a twelve year old with a twelve year old's attitude and view of the world is the narrator of these tales of murderous doings in the East Texas town of Job's Crossing. Author Nancy Bell has given J.R. his own unique voice and a lot of the charm of these books is reading his youthfully eager, often confused take on the adults and the world around him. J.R. is no genius, just a young, precocious boy who is trying to make sense of the carnival-like atmosphere that often pervades his Texas home town where murder seems to occur more often than not and where his grandma Biggie is usually called upon to help solve the mystery. In these endeavors she is often helped - or hindered - by the endearingly quirky members of the Job's Crossing community.
In the first book in the series, BIGGIE AND THE POISONED POLITICIAN, the town's not-too-well-liked Mayor Gribbons drops dead in his angel food cake while Biggie watches horrified, but ready to lend a hand to catch a poisonous murderer. Politics and murder go hand in hand even in this tiny town.
The book begins with a big bang, an explosion in the driveway of Biggie and J.R.'s house:
When we got to the front porch, we saw Mr. Crabtree standing by his old Buick looking like he'd just put the bucket down the well and drawn up a skunk. His coat was torn and a cut over his left eye was bleeding into his ear and dripping down onto his white shirt. His Panama hat hung from a branch on Biggie's pecan tree. Papers were scattered all around his car, which was nothing but a pile of black junk with little wisps of smoke rising up where the engine used to be.
Mr. Crabtree's good eye kept going back and forth from his car to Biggie, then back to his car. He opened his mouth, but no words came out, and his arms waved like a cop directing traffic. I wanted to call the doctor, but Biggie said Mr. Crabtree would be all right and made him sit on the steps and breathe into a paper sack until he could talk. When he felt better, Biggie bandaged his eye and asked what happened. You'll never guess what he said.
"The pope did it."
Willie Mae crossed herself.
"The Vatican must have heard about my work. They have spies everywhere, you know. I'll bet they had my car blown up as a warning. Oh, what shall I do, Miss Biggie? Whatever shall I do?"
Mr. Crabtree is an author and is writing a book about how the pope is planning to take over the world. He says not many people know it but the pope already owns all the Wal-Mart stores.....
.....One thing I like about Mr. Crabtree is his glass eye, which he will take out and let me look at. At night he keeps it in a little miniature coffin which his company [burial policy insurance] used to give away as souvenirs until the higher-ups decided it didn't project an upbeat image to be giving away coffins. Now what they give away is plastic rain hats and yardsticks printed with the company name. When his ship comes in, Mr. Crabtree is going to get a new eye because the green one he has doesn't match his real eye, which is gray. When he gets a new one, he's going to give me his old eye to put on my whatnot shelf.
This gives you a taste of the flavor of J.R.'s narration which I can't get enough of. He is a thoroughly charming boy who, thankfully, is unaware of his charm. He adores his grandma Biggie and respects the heck out of her even with her eccentricities and bossiness and assumptions that nothing goes on in Job's Crossing that isn't her business.
The mysteries in this atmospheric series are good ones and the whodunit moment at the end usually comes as a surprise. You will meet most of the citizens of the town of Job's Crossing
and after reading a few pages, you'll feel as if you're visiting with your own eccentric brand of country cousins and other assorted relatives, befuddled by mystery, turning the pages to see what happens next. Last, but not least, you will be tempted to try Willie Mae's mouth-watering recipes often included at the end of each book.