Dearly Departed by Tristi Pinkston

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Ida Mae, an elderly woman living in rural Utah, falls and breaks her foot. Her friends Tansy and Arlette take care of her, but Ida Mae needs something to occupy her time while she recovers. Fortunately, Arlette’s granddaughter Eden needs someone to infiltrate an assisted living community in order to solve a murder.

Amongst other odd jobs, Eden edits obituaries for the newspaper and she sometimes crashes funerals to find out more about the deceased. During one such outing, she discovers the death in question may not have been due to natural causes. Being religious, the Secret Sisters feel guilty when they have to be deceptive or break the law during the course of their investigation, which is an interesting conflict you usually don’t see in murder mysteries.

Eden writes mystery novels in her spare time, so I’m guessing this character is based on the author. Eden’s boss is quite the micromanager. He just seems like a stereotypical boss who’s mean for no reason. In addition to the murder investigation, there’s also a low stakes love triangle between Eden, her coworker, and her friend who is away on a mission.

Due to references to the mission, the Relief Society, the bishop, the ward, etc., it’s clear the characters are Mormon. However, (unless I missed it) the words “Mormon” and “LDS” are never used. I think the author just assumes her readers are all Mormons and don’t need it spelled out. If you’re not a Mormon, you might be a bit confused at parts since nothing about Mormon culture is explained, it’s just taken for granted. It must have never occurred to the author that a non-Mormon might pick this book up.

While the author under-explains when it comes to Mormon culture, she over-explains in other instances. For example, if a woman blushes when talking about a cute guy, you don’t have to tell us why. Most readers are savvy enough to figure things like this out on our own.

This is the second book in a series, but not having read the first, I’d say it stands on its own. I’m not a big fan of cozy mysteries, but I liked this at first. There’s a certain amount of charm to characters who think of Olive Garden as a fancy restaurant, and think Pirates of the Caribbean  is just as good as Casablanca. On the other hand, it’s less charming when they assume children of divorce who aren’t messed up are the exception to the rule. Also, the references to Uncle Remus and Little Black Sambo seemed a bit racially insensitive.

The cheesy sense of humor didn’t work for me personally.  Having not one, but two, surprise parentage reveals towards the end seemed to be overdoing it a bit. I was actually more surprised that Ida Mae didn’t follow through with her intention to convert a non-believer, since converting non-Mormons is a standard trope in Mormon fiction.

If you’re not a Mormon, you probably won’t like this, but if you are a Mormon who likes cozy mysteries, this might be right up your alley.

Purchase on Amazon

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