Them Bones by Carolyn Haines

I can understand why Them Bones by Carolyn Haines has sparked a legion of fans and lead to the publication of 19 books to date. The 20th, Game of Bones, will be released on May 14, 2019.

Sarah Booth Delaney… you are quite a bit of a mess

Our main character cannot deny having a life that is unmanageable. We meet Sarah in her hometown of Zinnia, Mississippi during the days leading up to Thanksgiving. She is in dire straits by anyone’s account. Her childhood plantation home (I can’t make this up- a plantation for crying out loud) is on the chopping block with the bank ready to devour it and the ghost she lives with too.

See Sarah has no income whatsoever and her job prospects are as empty as her jug of moonshine. At this point we are unsure if she has any discernible skills. That Mercedes roadster is about to get towed away. Oh, and it is Thanksgiving and she is spending it alone so she has that to look forward to.

Not that I feel bad for her spending the holiday alone. In fact I admire it for a few good reasons.

  1. She makes the best of it and heads to the Piggly Wiggly. Isn’t that what we should all do?
  2. Spending the holidays alone isn’t the worst thing ever.
  3. It’s something a Daddy’s Girl isn’t supposed to do.

What in the world is a Daddy’s Girl?

Even though this takes place in the late 90s (published in 1999) we are introduced to the world of Sarah Booth Delaney which includes archaic concepts such as Daddy’s Girl. It is a part of her upbringing filled with Southern gentility and grown women who are referred to as Daddy’s Girl’s. They do not work. I am fairly certain they drink like fish. They are the upper echelon of the South dahling. The Belles who go to Ole Miss and work on that “Mrs” degree and are already planning their second marriage by the age of 24.

These are rich women. Or they are supposed to be. Of coursE the economic crisis has not really hit in that day and age but already their lifestyle is fading. Poor them.

On this end I think the author does a fabulous job of not painting Sarah Booth as one of “them” in entirety. There is a present need for her to be empowered as a woman and it shows. I can promise you the life of a traditional Daddy’s Girl would have been not nearly as exciting of a read.

A true Daddy’s Girl would not surround herself with fun characters- that is people, and ghosts, who have actual character.

That’s just Jitty; the ghost who lives here

Jitty wants what is best for Sarah Booth (she is always referred to by both names so get used to it) and does not mind telling her. She uses bold, in your face language in order to do so. Subtlety is not listed on her resume under skill set.

She has lived at the plantation long enough to see generations of Sarah Booth’s kinfolk be born and die and she simply wants to keep on haunting the life out of her kin until Sarah is bones in her grave. Jitty does not hesitate to remind Sarah Booth that she is going to end up without a man and heirs.

But she is, in my opinion, very hilarious! Albeit problematic and absurd- more on that later.

What I like about Jitty is that she is almost always the smartest person in the room. She has this really great idea to have Sarah Booth steal a dog to save the home.

I am going to just leave that here. Because it is cute. In the end no one was harmed and it allows the story to bolt ahead in the most interesting of ways. But Jitty is ever present, or at least when Jitty wants to be, and doesn’t mind fading away after her dramatic appearances.

She is also a fashion plate. Materializing in fascinating getups that spanned literally several decades sometimes within a matter of hours- she is a force to be reckoned with. Or at least to be mindful of as I waited with bated breath to see what she was going to wear next.

Tinkie is a friend in need and a friend indeed

Tinkie shows up as a good friend to Sarah Booth. A fellow Daddy’s Girl who ends up helping Sarah to start down an actual career path. She’s not all bad. She’s rich and has nothing better to do with her time than to be a good friend. And she mentions Hamilton which gets this horse and buggy a trotting.

Oh Hamilton!

Hamilton is a person of interest here and all I can say is that he doesn’t really want to be there at all. Nonetheless he is back in Zinnia, having lived for many years in Europe, and doesn’t want Sarah Booth nosing around his bones. He is rumored to have killed his Mother which makes Sarah Booth want to be close as a bedbug with him.

Cece… ahead of her time

I did not expect a transgender character to appear dressed in Versace and running a newspaper in Zinnia, Mississippi.

But here we have another person of character in this little old country town. Cece is actually blonde and was born a man and loves cheese danishes which she bites into with strong white teeth.

In many ways this Southern novel is way ahead of its time.

What is Sarah to do?

Sarah is tasked with nosing around and uncovering the murderous schemes of people who have more money than her and don’t appreciate a Daddy’s Girl getting all down and dirty asking questions like a woman with poor taste. How dare she?

One of the things I liked about the main character is her ability to push buttons and not care which floor she landed on as she is flung off of the elevator. She implores time and gossip from all types of people outside of her socioeconomic group whether they like it or not. Most often it is a “not”.

And she gets herself in a whole lot of trouble along the way. Legal trouble, romantic trouble, possibly felonious troubles. You name it she has it. It is no surprise that while chasing a killer she finds herself on the run from the law.

Like I said, she’s quite a bit of a mess.

Historical accuracy and the lack thereof

Let me just be the one to talk about the elephant in the room here.

Constantly referred to as a great-great-great grandma’s nanny the truth of the matter is that Jitty was a slave. Gasp! I don’t know why the author didn’t just call her one. Her style of speaking came straight out of one of those awful southern antebellum films.

There is also a story about Jitty’s slave owner buying her another slave for a husband. Of course he died in what was the Civil War- but the author did not refer to it as such. I am removing one half of a star for that. Though Jitty is comic relief she is also representative of enslavement and the ghosts thereof and I wouldn’t have been as distracted if there had been some reverence for historical accuracy pertaining to the buying, selling and separation of human beings against their will.

These are rich people after all. If they wanted a nanny they very well could have afforded one. A nanny who spoke proper English and could live and work of her own volition.

Case closed…

I sincerely enjoyed this book and have already read the second book in this series. Despite the glaring lack of historical truthfulness I am going to give this book a four and a half out of five stars. I most loved the way the author was so descriptive about the very soil surrounding the Mississippi Delta. It made me want to learn more about the area. I also really appreciated the culinary references and would have enjoyed a plate of Southern diner fare right along with Sarah Booth.

As I said I will continue reading this series. The novels are standalone and one can jump in anywhere along the line without much confusion from what I have seen. I am currently reading book three and will provide a review for book two, Buried Bones, in the future.

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