SECRETS, LIES, & CRAWFISH PIES

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 21 May 2018

Member Reviews

A big city medical examiner falls on some hard times and is forced to move back to her small hometown in TX.  Great cozy mystery with fun characters.
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Secrets, Lies, & Crawfish Pies by Abby L. Vandiver, a delightfully quirky Louisiana-TX cozy that’s a first in series. I think this will be a popular and winning series. This author has mad skills and nailed these LA-TX traditions. The two female protagonists are tremendously funny and stole my heart immediately. I will definitely follow this author. Highly recommend this new series, book and author..
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The French Creole influence and East Texas setting helped this stand out as a fun cozy mystery type story. Romaine's Aunt is a hoot.
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Romaine Wilder is a medical examiner who has come home to the small Texas town of Roble to recoup after her life falls in the big city falls apart. Between losing her job and finding out just how little her “boyfriend” intends to actually give up to be with her, Romaine finds little solace in the small town happenings she left behind.

That is, until a body turns up unexpectedly at her Auntie’s funeral home. Auntie Zanne is ready to point a finger at another family member and Romaine becomes involved to prove otherwise.

Between crawfish pies and magic teas, the story has a lot of laughs and fun happenings. Romaine starts to enjoy herself which isn’t so great for someone who plans to return to the big city once again.

The plot was interesting and the whodunnit was not so easily solved. The characters were a hoot and I’m looking forward to reading more in this fun cozy mystery series.

As with all first books in a series, a lot of time is spent laying the groundwork for future books. You get introduced to many characters and are given a background for each. It makes for a little slow-going at times but is well worth the effort once the story is told.

I was provided a digital advance reader copy of this book by the publisher via Netgalley.
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Secrets, Lies, & Crawfish Pies is the first book in the Romaine Wilder Mystery series. Romaine Wilder has recently lost her job as a medical examiner in Chicago. She returns to her small hometown in East Texas, and stumbles upon a dead body in her aunt’s funeral home. This should come as no surprise, since it is a funeral home, but this body was dumped there.

This is a cute first in a new series that has good bones and can quickly become a hit series.
I volunteered to read and review an ARC of this book provided by the publisher and NetGalley.
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This is book 1 in the new Romaine Wilder series.  Medical examiner/coroner is becoming a popular theme in cozy mysteries.  Romaine has been downsized from her Chicago job and is returning to small hometown Robel, Texas.  She has worked so hard to put her small town roots behind her but discovers that you can go home again. He aunt runs the local funeral home and someone has dropped off a body late at night.  Romaine realizes her cousin, the new sheriff is in over his head and she and and Auntie Zanne set out to find the killer.  Meanwhile everyone in town is working to keep Romaine from going back to Chicago.  Great start for this series and will be looking forward to book 2. I received a  copy of this ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review.
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Downsized from her job as a medical examiner in Chicago, Romaine Wilder returns to Roble, TX to live with her Aunt Suzanne who raised her. Auntie Zanne is a bit of an eccentric, practicing Voodoo herbalism to help those around her. The family business is the Ball Funeral Home and Crematorium. Her auntie spent 2 weeks in Chicago helping Romie get ready to move. They arrive in Texas to a surprise, but not the kind people enjoy receiving. The funeral home has a guest -- an extra dead body. Not only do they have no idea about the identity of the deceased middle aged man reclining in one of their caskets...but it appears that he has been murdered. Romie soon finds herself involved in a murder investigation along with her aunt and her cousin, Pogue, the local sheriff. 

I enjoyed this book. It's a nice start to a new cozy series! The characters are eccentric, lively and have that spunky southern country attitude. It made the story fun to read! Aunt Zanne is my favorite character. She really rushes in and takes everything over when she gets a notion into her head. It does make her butt heads frequently with her niece....but only because the two women are a lot alike -- intelligent and independent. I did find Romie to be a bit less determined than her auntie. At times she didn't seem to react to things the way a doctor would, but if I had just lost my job in Chicago and moved to east-nowhere small town Texas, I would probably react to things a little slowly myself. The one thing that bothered me is that the premise of her moving to Texas was that she couldn't find another job in Chicago. I don't believe it would be difficult for a doctor, especially a medical examiner, to find a job in a large metro area. She wasn't dismissed for malpractice or a problem on the job....but downsized. I don't believe she would have been forced to move to Texas. And surely a doctor would have some savings or credit to fall back on in an emergency. That part of the plot just didn't make sense to me. But......it's a cozy and not meant to be a realistic hard-hitting crime novel. Romie came back home to help bake crawfish pie and solve a murder. :) 

The mystery moved along at a nice pace with plenty of twists and sleuthing. The story definitely kept my attention from beginning to end. 

This is the first cozy I have read where all the main characters are black. It was refreshing and enjoyable to read! The characters were wonderful, well developed, and entertaining. 

All in all, a great beginning to a new cozy series! I can't wait to read more! 

**I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy of this book from Henery Press via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**
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What a delightful read!  Lots of great characters with quirky personalities.  It's obvious that the author spent a lot of time developing them and wanted you to become a part of the town of Roble, TX.

Great mystery from the very first of the book and keeps you guessing until the end.  I had a clue, but wasn't sure which person might be guilty of murder until the very end.  But it doesn't matter if you can't figure it out right away, because the story is full of twists and turns and lots of crazy antics.  Auntie Zanne has you chuckling and understanding how Romaine could lose her cool with her aunt.

It appears this book sets things up for a sequel and I am looking anxiously forward to seeing what happens with Romaine and a couple of interested "fellas".  The book moves along quickly and you are constantly facing a new clue as you try to figure out the identity of the dead body found at the funeral home and how he got there.

The one negative aspect is that I did not like the situation Romaine left in Chicago.  She's too smart to put up with that type of relationship.  But we'll see what happens when the next book comes out...hopefully soon!

Thank you to Henery Press and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for my honest feedback.
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Romaine Wilder has lost her job in a Chicago hospital and forced to return home to Roble, Texas, to live with her Aunt Zanne (Babet) at the family funeral home.  She isn't happy but is convinced it's only temporary so is going to make it work.

The moment they return home they see a family friend, Josephine Gail, out on the lawn in the rain babbling about a dead body.  Well, it is a funeral home, of course - but the dead body doesn't belong there.  No one seems to know who it is or how he got there.  When Romaine does a quick check, she can't find any reason why he should be dead in the first place, but will know more after an autopsy.  When it's discovered how he was murdered and who he was, then her cousin Sheriff Pogue Folsum has his work cut out for him trying to find out who murdered the man.

Standing in his way is Zanne, who is trying to make his job harder and Romie's life miserable while she decides she's going to find a killer who had the nerve to leave an unwanted body in her funeral home...

First off, I wanted to like this book as I thought it had a good premise.  But there were so many questions I had to ask:  I don't understand how she's a medical examiner but couldn't find a job anywhere in Chicago?  That didn't make sense to me.  A good doctor can always find a job, and in Chicago, where there are so many deaths, (just read the news) we're supposed to believe that not even one medical facility would need a good examiner?

Also, she doesn't have any money that was mentioned so she couldn't find her own place to live, and doesn't own a vehicle.  Even if you take the El, you'd still need a car to get some places - yet she took the train back home instead of driving.  Why didn't she have a vehicle?  Why hadn't she saved enough money to stay in Chicago until she found a job?  Surely a doctor would be making a decent wage, government job or not.

Then, Pogue must know that Josephine Gail suffers from depression, so the first thing he does after Zanne leaves the room is accuse her of murdering the man and demanding she tell him how she did it.  And our spineless friend Romie just sits there and allows him to attack her like that.  He didn't ask to see the list of bodies delivered, nor did he even think to ask who brought the bodies but instead asked a woman in her seventies how she committed murder.  Seriously?  He's known this woman his whole life, and he believes her to be capable of murder?  This is a serious plot hole.

But the worst character is Zanne, and the reason I didn't give the book a higher rating.  I believe she's supposed to be feisty, but she just comes off as pompous and mean-spirited.  (When she said Romaine looked just like her, I cringed.  While it was supposed to be funny, who wants to be compared to an eighty-two-year-old woman and said they resembled her, especially if they're half her age).  Plus, she's an aunt, not a mother, so they might not resemble each other at all.  And sorry to say, Zanne, you won't have grandkids - she's your niece, even if you raised her; not your daughter.

Perhaps these things wouldn't bother me so much if she weren't so insane, and not in a good way.  She's certifiable.  She keeps telling Romaine she's staying in Roble knowing she's unhappy to be there; telling her she's going to run the funeral home knowing she doesn't want to; telling her she'll find her a husband and have kids - well, you get the idea.  This is not funny nor quirky.  I doubt any reader would want to be treated this way by any relative. A good aunt who's raised you will support you in thick and thin, allow you to live your own life, be there when you need to talk, and not try and run your life - just like a good mother.  Zanne is none of these things, and therefore unlikable.

All I could think about was Romaine needed to get out of there fast, especially after Zanne told her how making crawfish pies were more important than an autopsy (basically 'what I want is more important than what you want); and demanded she be allowed to sit in on said autopsy.  Um, no.  So what if she has to ready the body for burial?  What does that have to do with an autopsy; and in her business, she should already be aware she can't sit in on them.  I doubt if there's a pathologist in the country who allows funeral directors to watch them work.  Unfortunately, all this did was give the impression that Zanne was a pushy woman who demanded the world revolve around her and what she wanted.  (Since when does a crawfish festival take precedence over a murder victim?

Also unfortunately, Romaine is everything I dislike in a woman - a spineless person who bends to the will of others instead of standing up for herself.  That she was waiting for her friends to find her a job instead of trying to find another one herself tells you all you need to know.  Even the crawfish had more backbone than she did.  I'm not saying she shouldn't be respectful of Zanne; but being respectful and allowing someone to push you around and tell you what you are going to do with your life are two different things.

I really struggled with this review because while I understand this is the first in the series and probably needs work, at least two things need to change before I will continue with it:  Romaine needs to develop a backbone and not allow herself to be pushed around by her crazy aunt (she did develop a small one but not enough); and Zanne needs to grow up, realize that Romaine isn't a little girl anymore, and stop trying to run everyone's life and let Romaine do whatever she wants regardless of what Zanne wants her to do; in other words, stop trying to run (and ruin) her life.
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Now I was starting to feel bad. Giving my auntie such a hard time. I probably 
could have been more supportive of her breaking the law and snooping around.
Wait…that didn’t sound right.
Abby L. Vandiver, Secrets, Lies & Crawfish Pies, Kindle Loc. 1830

Romaine Wilder, big-city medical examiner with a small-town past, has been downsized and evicted. With few other options, she’s forced to return to her hometown of Roble in East Texas, leaving behind the man she’s dating and the life she’s worked hard to build. 

Suzanne Babet Derbinay, Romaine’s Auntie Zanne and proprietor of the Ball Funeral Home, has long since traded her French Creole upbringing for Big Texas attitude. She’s a member in a number of ladies’ auxiliaries and clubs, including being in charge of the Tri-County Annual Crawfish Boil and Music Festival. 

Hanging on to the magic of her Louisiana roots, she’s cooked up a love potion or two—if she could only get Romaine to drink it. But her plans are derailed when the Ball Funeral Home, bursting at the seams with dead bodies, has a squatter stiff. 

Dead Guy is a problem. 

Auntie Zanne can’t abide by a murderer using her funeral home as the dumping grounds for their crimes, and Romaine doesn’t want her newly elected cousin, Sheriff Pogue Folsom, to fail on his first murder case. Together, Romaine and Auntie Zanne set off to solve it. 

With a dash of humor, a dollop of Southern charm, and a peek at current social issues in the mix, it’s a fun romp around East Texas to solve a murder mystery of the cozy kind.
Amazon.com

Henery Press released Abby L. Vandiver’s first book in the Romaine Wilder Mystery series, Secrets, Lies, & Crawfish Pies on June 12. But this release isn’t Abby’s debut. She has self-published three other series, one of which is written with a friend and is paranormal. (It’s on Kindle Unlimited—I just downloaded it!)

The characters are what make Secrets, Lies, & Crawfish Pies special. Raised by her powerhouse of an aunt, Romaine Wilder is caught in her small hometown until she can find another Medical Examiner job in Chicago, where she’d rather be. Aunt Zanne keeps Romaine busy delegating tasks that entail everything from making Crawfish pie to solving the murder. She gets things done all the while denying reality or adding one plus one and getting five, driving Romaine crazy.

Please welcome Abby L. Vandiver to WWK.						        E. B. Davis
______________________________________________________________________________  

Roble, TX is a real town, but you’ve changed it some, haven’t you? My little town in Secrets, Lies & Crawfish Pies is called “Roble” it is made up and means “oak” in Spanish. 

Auntie Zanne’s real name is Suzanne Arelia Sophie Babet St. Romain. Does everyone in that region have long names? lol. I don’t know. I did that because my characters were christened in the Holy Roman Church. I hope that won’t get me in trouble, but I thought it would be apropos.

Although your story is light-hearted, part of the family’s story is based on racism. Due to the horrible story of Naomi Drake, the New Orleans City Registrar for the Bureau of Vital Statistics, who wasn’t alone in her race categorization as the State of Virginia had its own eugenics-based racists, was there a mass exodus from Louisiana to Texas in the late 40s? Yes, there was. Mixed-race French Creoles, as I explain in my book, didn’t like being categorized according to other people’s mandates. Many moved to the Golden Triangle – Orange, Port Arthur, and Beaumont Texas, and some even as far as Houston. They were able to resume their community and way of life there.

Auntie Zanne runs a funeral home, serves as president of the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA), and is a member of the Tri-County Chamber of Commerce heading up the 25th Annual Sabine County Crawfish Boil and Music Festival and a Red Hat Society lady, among her other activities. How does an eighty-year-old have the energy? I think it’s because of her brews! She’s a Voodoo herbalist don’t forget. I was inspired to write about it when I read about a 95 year old park ranger and discovered many of our older citizens are still vibrant and active members of our society. I did, however, make the character of Aunt Julep, who is close to Auntie Zanne’s age a little slower.

Rhett Remmiere seems a bit mysterious. Auntie Zanne says she grooming him to take over the funeral home along with her friend, Josephine Gail Cox. Doesn’t he have to be licensed? Who is he really, an FBI agent? Rhett Remmiere really is an FBI agent. We’re learn his story in Book III, Potions, Tells and Deadly Spells. Right now, however, Rhett isn’t taking on any actual mortician duties, he’s just an employee. But that is a good idea, she does need another mortician in training!

Did Romaine become a Medical Examiner due to her family’s owning a funeral home? Was she used to dead bodies already? Romaine admits that her legacy is death. She’d been around the funeral home most of her life. So, yes. I think that her upbringing, once she decided to be a doctor, was very instrumental in choosing her specialty.

What’s the difference between a coroner and a ME? Many people use the terms interchangeably. However, by definition, a medical examiner is a licensed medical doctor who is trained as a forensic pathologist. A coroner does not have to be a doctor.

 


Romaine’s cousin Sheriff Pogue Folsom is inexperienced. Why does he give up the investigation to Romaine when she doesn’t have any experience either? He didn’t give up the investigation, while he did ask Romaine for any help she could offer due to her experience working as a medical examiner, he specifically tells her not to interfere in the investigation, and she promises she won’t. But like any other amateur sleuth, she can’t help but to ask questions.

With all the potions Auntie Zanne makes, her being a voodoo herbalist, can’t she concoct something to help her friend Josephine Gail Cox’s depression? There are many medical and holistic means of treating depression, there is however no cure. Auntie Zanne does give Josephine Gail some of her brew. But in the end, being accused of murder as Josephine Gail had been, can make anyone get into a rut.

Do they still administer Electro shock therapy? Yes, they do. My mother had it in the sixties, and I wasn’t sure because it seems so barbaric, but I spoke to a psychologist and she assured me that it is still a mode of therapy used for certain mental illnesses.

Auntie Zanne forms a negative opinion of Pogue based on his awkward adolescent years. Is her opinion based on her rivalry with Romaine’s other aunt, Aunt Julep? No, Auntie Zanne loves Romaine’s Aunt Julep, they’ve been friends for decades. Auntie Zanne’s impression stems from her desire to protect Josephine Gail.

What do they now use to embalm bodies? Not formaldehyde? They use embalming fluid, as they always have, now however, there is a formaldehyde free option. It is safer for the environment.

Why does Romaine feel that in Roble she loses her identity? Does she associate it with being young or is Auntie Zanne too overpowering? Romaine doesn’t want to be a small town girl. She likes things that small, rural towns, such as Roble, can’t offer. Because of that, she forged out a life that included culture and a life conducive to a place like Chicago.

Catfish, who is sweet on Romaine, brings her three tubs of crawfish (filled ¾ with water) because, much to Romaine’s surprise, Auntie Zanne has promised that Romaine will make Crawfish Pies for the festival. Does that mean Romaine will have to cook and shell all those crawfish? How long will the crawfish stay fresh?  Romaine will use mostly the tail meat for her dishes, so she will have to shell them all. In the book, however, Rhett and Auntie Zanne give her a hand. Crawfish are freshwater crustaceans and can live in a tub filed with water for about five days. Romaine didn’t wait more than two days to use them.

What is the Code of Ethical Conduct for the Care of the Decedent? It is the code of ethics (standards) for funeral home owners. It sets out the standard for the care of the decedent as well as for grieving families.

Why is Death Romaine’s legacy? She was raised in a funeral home. And as she states in the book, her name, Romaine Gabriela Sadie Heloise Wilder, were the names of her dead relatives. She quips that translated her name is: “Dead Family Name – Dead Aunt – Dead Grandma – Dead Grandma – Wilder.”
 
When Romaine fixes her childhood room to suit her adult tastes—does that mean she’s staying in Roble? No! Far from it. She only updates her room so she can stay there until she can find a job back in Chicago. She definitely has no plans to stay. Her Auntie Zanne on the other hand . . .

What’s next for Romaine and Auntie Zanne? A wedding and the 100th Boule of the Distinguished Ladies’ Society of Voodoo Herbalist. And, of course, murder!
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OK, so once again I'm an outlier - but this didn't work for me.  It was billed as a fun romp, with humour and southern charm but I found it confused and cluttered and with a cast of characters who made me roll my eyes so hard they nearly fell out of my head.  I know it's the first in a new series and that it needs to establish the characters and settings - but this had so many quirky characters and so much unorthodox investigating that I found it hard to take anything seriously.  If Romaine had done better at investigating the murder, the side characters might have been copeable with.  But then I didn't find Romaine particularly likeable either - she spends a lot of her time moaning and her inner monologue knows when she's doing the wrong thing and yet she does it anyway.  And she doesn't come across as particularly competent at her job either - which is always a big no-no for me.  I *really* wanted to like this - I love cozy crime and I'm always looking for new series - especially more diverse ones and things doing something different.  But this wasn't it for me.
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A great first book in what is sure to be a wonderful series. Loved the characters and the setting. Looking forward to reading more in the series.
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This was a delightfully entertaining book. It has quirky characters and a story and mystery that are well written and fun. This would be a great book to take on a summer road trip
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This is a great book with a wonderful story and well developed characters. The story flowed very well and was very enjoyable. This book will keep you reading long into the night and you will not want to put this book down until you finish. This was such a great read and full of surprises.
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An enjoyable cozy mystery. I liked the Southern atmosphere. Stories based around a funeral home do catch my attention and have lots of potential.
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While the beginning of this book felt like a yuppy name-dropping cocktail party, it quickly moved past fashion and into the actual story. Romaine, a medical examiner, somehow loses her job, should lose her no-good boyfriend, and moves back home with her Auntie Zanne to an itty bitty town in Texas full of larger than life caricatures. No boring wallflower herself, Auntie Zanne owns a mortuary, and they come home to find there is an extra dead body at the shop. In the fashion of most cozies, this all takes place in a small town where everyone knows each other, secrets abound, and law enforcement isn't used to dealing with murder. Romaine, cousin to the sheriff, steps up and tracks down the killer. It will be interesting to see where the series goes from here.
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I abandoned this at about 1/3 in because it was one note.  The main characters kept repeating the same actions and statements and behaviors over and over again, so that it just became annoying.  It started out like a fun little cozy mystery, but without character development and some kind of different behavior it became unbearable.  Zanne and Romie repeated every action and comment dozens of times, but Romie kept whining about going back to her real life in Chicago and Zanne was like a stubborn pit bull not letting go of her vicious intent to frame Julep.  I gave up.
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Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.
SECRETS, LIES, & CRAWFISH PIES by Abby L. Vandiver (published June 12, 2018 by Henery Press) is the first novel in the Romaine Wilder Mystery series. Romaine Wilder has recently lost her job as a medical examiner in Chicago. She returns to her small hometown in East Texas, and almost immediately stumbles upon a dead body in her aunt’s funeral home. Now, finding a dead body in a funeral home shouldn’t be that big of a surprise – except this body shouldn’t be there. It turns out that this person was murdered, and then his body was dumped at the funeral home to dispose of it. Romaine reluctantly teams up with her overzealous, nosy Auntie Zanne to figure out how and why the corpse wound up in her funeral home, and find the killer. 
I found SECRETS, LIES, & CRAWFISH PIES to be a very fun novel. There are many times where I laughed out loud. And Auntie Zanne is one of my new favorite amateur sleuths. She’s eccentric, she’s determined, and she’s not going to let anyone come between her and her many missions. She also steals the show from her niece! Romaine is an equally interesting character, and she perfectly balances out her aunt as the two work together. The author also brings small town Texas to life. The descriptions made me feel like I was right there in Robel, Texas. The mystery aspect also kept me guessing throughout the novel – there were numerous suspects and motives. The secondary plot lines were also intriguing and helped move the story along.
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This story has you laughing from page one.  Romaine is living in Chicago as the medical examiner. When she loses her job and is forced from her apartment, she travels back to her hometown in Texas with her Aunt Zanne.  Dead bodies are in their blood with her aunt owning a funeral parlor. Upon arrival things get rolling when her aunt's crazy friend tells them that there is an extra body at the home.  Who would leave a dead body at the funeral home?  Sheriff Pogue is Romaine's cousin. He is newly elected sheriff and a little green in the solving crime field.  Can Romaine and Aunt Zanne help him find the answers.
I love Aunt Zanne. She is corny and fun. I laughed out loud at how she dragged Romaine all over town to solve this murder.  The characters were well developed and the story line had you turning pages. I look forward to the next murder err.. story.  I received a copy through Netgalley,  This review was not required.
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Secrets, Lies, and Crawfish Pies is the first story in Abby L. Vandiver’s new Romaine Wilder series.   Romaine  was a big city medical examiner who finds herself returning  back to her childhood home in Roble, Texas with her beloved Aunt Zanne.  Her Aunt owns and operates  the Ball Funeral Home and Crematorium.   This type of business is new to the cozy world and is interesting to read about with the Southern flavor of the book. 
 Their homecoming is met by Auntie’s best friend Josephine Gail  awaiting the arrival of new sheriff,.   Josephine Gail has discovered a dead body on the premises, one that was not accounted for in the funeral home.  When the current  medical examiner is ill Romaine steps in to do the autopsy and works with her Auntie’s  to solve the crime. She proves to be a good sleuth and is able to piece together clues to the conclusion. 
This is a fun charming Southern flavor. I loved the charcters, the small Texas town and the culture of Southern life.  Even the addition to the cozy world of a medical examiner is written with respect and is a interesting new career to read about . I like the smart fun protagonist and how she steps up to help her town and her Aunt while starting her life over in her childhood hometown.  All in all a strong cozy debut and I look forward to the next in series.  Thank you for the ARC which did not influence my review. Well done to the author ! 
 This is a fun read and I do recommend it
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