Thursday, May 15, 2008

Cathy Pickens' "Hush My Mouth"

Cathy Pickens is the author of the Southern Fried Mystery series featuring Avery Andrews.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to the latest book in the series, Hush My Mouth, and reported the following:
Excerpt from page 99:

“Some of us were out one night, after a football game or some such. Telling ghost stories. Must’a been near Halloween. We drove across the bridge and stopped to see if we could hear the baby crying.” He shook his head, smiling at the memory. “Ol’ Campbell decided he’d impress his girlfriend, so he got out to walk back across it.”

“What baby?”

“You never heard tell of the crybaby? Suppose to hear a baby crying if you walk across the bridge at midnight under a full moon.” He snorted.

“I take it you didn’t hear any crying.”

“Only crying I heard was that dumbass Campbell.” He smiled broadly. “Jennie Lee was sitting in the front seat of that old Plymouth I used to have. I got out to watch Campbell, she slid over to the driver’s seat and put that sucker in gear. I barely got the back door open. She was moving when I jumped in. But not before I heard it.”

He laughed out loud, one of his contagious belly laughs.

“Not that baby,” I said.

“Naw. Campbell. Screaming like a girl. He must’a run a good half mile, chasing us and yelling before she stopped the car.”

On page 99 of Hush My Mouth – a traditional murder mystery with a Southern flavor – attorney Avery Andrews is eating in the local meat-and-three-vegetables restaurant with Chief Deputy Rudy Mellin. They’ve been comparing notes on a two mysterious deaths in small-town Dacus, South Carolina.

Avery and Rudy knew each other in high school – not close friends, just that “sort of know” that happens in small towns. Avery went away to become a lawyer, then reluctantly came home after losing her temper with a lying witness in a high-profile trial and, as a result, losing her job. Rudy worked himself up to chief deputy while she was gone.

Their renewed friendship represents both the warmth and frustration of familiarity.

My close-knit, small-town upbringing prompts me to speculate about knowing people at different stages of their lives. Would I have liked my husband had I known him in high school? (Maybe not.) What was my dad like as a boss? Would my mother and I have been friends if we’d been contemporaries? (I like to think so.)

Page 99 also shows the role of humor in these mysteries. Even in tragic or scary situations, humor provides leavening.

Avery, who fought returning home, is showing signs of settling in, of becoming a part of the town, someone townspeople turn to when they’re in trouble. And she’s putting together her past and her present, with old friends made new and with a completeness she couldn’t know without the help of friends and laughter and a sense of continuity.
Read an excerpt from Hush My Mouth, and learn more about the author and her books at Cathy Pickens' website.

--Marshal Zeringue