October 22, 2008


When Simone Covington comes home to arrange an anniversary party for her parents, who have been married for 35 years, she is not surprised that Mama is about to get involved in another sleuthing adventure. Mama greets her at the door with the news that Sarah Jenkins, one Mama’s friends and one of a trio of gossips who often are a source of information, is in the hospital. Sarah reveals a little capsule of truth about her affairs that gets Mama involved in a case of adultery and murder in Mama Pursues Murderous Shadows, the seventh novel in Nora DeLoach’s Mama series.

Ruby Spikes, Sarah’s goddaughter, is found dead in a motel room, and her death is initially ruled a suicide. She is embarrassed to reveal to her three friends that she fell for a lottery scam and sent an unknown person money she was saving to pay her property taxes. She can save her home if she can collect the money from an insurance policy, but the insurance company will pay only if Ruby’s death is not ruled a suicide.

Sheriff Abe informs Mama that Ruby had $2000.00 in her purse when she entered the motel, but there was no money in her purse or on her body when he arrived on the scene. Inez Moore, who found the body, is an immediate suspect. She worked with Ruby at a garment factory and was fired after Ruby reported that she and her boyfriend were stealing goods from the factory. Mama discovers later that Ruby also had $35,000 in the bank that is also missing.

Later on in the investigation, Mama learns that Betty Jo Mets, one of her young welfare clients, had become Herman Spikes’s mistress and moved in with him after Ruby died. Ruby was cheating on Herman with another man, so Herman decided to cheat on her with Betty Jo. Mama becomes suspicious when Betty Jo, a healthy young woman, is found dead in Herman’s bed.

The facts in the case leave Mama wondering where Ruby got so much money, who would want her dead, and if there is a connection between the two murders?

Because I am a DeLoach fan, it pains me to say that the plot of Mama Pursues Murderous Shadows is too predictable with no real surprises. The lack of a good plot made me turn my attention to the three gossips, who have been Mama’s friends from the time they were all young women. They are significant in all of the novels, but I neglected to mention them in my critical reviews of the first six. Simone’s (really, of course, DeLoach) description of the three women shows each has a distinctive personality. She calls them “Otis’s historians because these three women know everything about everybody.”

Sarah Jenkins, whose problem provides the motive for Mama to take the case, “is a tiny, frail-looking woman with a wrinkled, pecan-colored complexion. She spends as much time in the doctor’s office as he does.”

“Annie Mae Gregory is a very fat, very dark woman with eyes that are small and very piercing. Set deep in her fat face, Annie Mae's eyes always remind me of a raccoon's-bright and extremely inquisitive. When her head is tilted a certain way, she looks cross-eyed.”

“Carrie Smalls…is tall, with mocha skin and straight, shoulder-length hair. Carrie looks younger than her two friends but that's because she dyes her hair jet black. She also has a strong chin, thin lips, and eyes that seldom seem to blink. She has a scary strength about her. I always tell Mama that it's Carrie Smalls's strength that gives these three women their presence when they're together.”

DeLoach does include some excitement for the reader. During her investigation, Mama and Simone are run off the road but no one is injured. Later, Mama is shot at while searching Betty Jo’s house where she finds an important clue. However, these incidents do not make up for the weak plot.

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