Members of The Thursday Morning Literary Society (which now meets on Monday afternoons) find themselves up to their pantyhose in murder when a befuddled woman appears claiming to be the person who disappeared as a child 65 years before. Guardian angel Augusta Goodnight arrives in the small town of Stone's Throw, SC, to help widow Lucy Nan Pilgrim delve into reasons behind the suspicious deaths and uncover long-buried secrets. Recipes included.
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Lucy Nan Pilgrim is introduced in the fifth of Mignon Ballard’s Augusta Goodnight mysteries. Lucy Nan doesn’t go looking for trouble: it parks itself right on her front step in Stone’s Throw, South Carolina. A child-like elderly woman who calls herself Shirley shows up late one night, looking for her mother. Insisting that Lucy Nan lives in her house, Shirley is invited in. Eventually Lucy Nan tucks the stranger in bed for a nap while she considers what to do.

Lucy Nan and close friend and neighbor, Ellis, both think the woman’s true identity is that of Ellis’s long-missing cousin Florence, last seen as a young child and presumed drowned. They have little time to speculate as they prepare for the funeral of Stone Throw’s least-beloved theater mistress, Calpernia Hemphill.

When Lucy’s unexplained guest disappears and is later found dead, things couldn’t get odder when another mysterious person shows up on her doorstep – this time to lease a room the widowed Lucy Nan has been thinking about renting. There’s nothing child-like about this woman, who claims to be a guardian angel assigned to Lucy Nan since Lucy’s angel, Shirley, was reassigned to the weather department. Besides the curios whiffs of strawberries that surround Augusta Goodnight, she’s visible only to Lucy Nan.

As the body count rises in Stone’s Throw and no answers are forthcoming, Lucy Nan decides to do some investigating on her own. Clues in the form of a bus ticket, makeup and jewelry help Lucy Nan, Augusta, and Lucy’s friends, The Thursday Morning Literary Society (which now meets on Monday Afternoons), called the Thursdays for short, work the puzzle of Shirley’s identity.

When evidence leads Lucy Nan to believe that Shirley was at the scene of Calpernia’s death, the reasons behind the need for a guardian angel become apparent. Augusta also happens to be a wonderful cook, and her recipes can be found in the back of the book and on Mignon Ballard’s website.

Augusta Goodnight is a fun read. I recommend the entire series.

Lisa Lickel