Tim Cockey's debut novel, The Hearse You Came In On, introduced readers to Hitchcock Sewell, the undertaker-turned-reluctant-sleuth, whose mordant irony and blissfully skewed perspective on the humdrum brought a remarkable vigor to a profession not usually known for its liveliness. The good news for Hitch fans is that Cockey's follow-up effort dishes up another heaping helping of sardonic wit:
The planet was one big marble of wretchedness. And I wasn't exactly being lifted aloft by bluebirds either. I was wheeling down the Baltimore- Washington Parkway in my unexciting car on the fourth record-breaking freezing cold day in a row, tuning in to what seemed to be the preexisting fact that I was going to be tracking down a cold-blooded murderer.
Said murderer has deposited a corpse on Hitch's doorstep--in the middle of a wake, no less. The unscheduled body is one Helen Waggoner, a single mother with a double life as a waitress and porn star. Hitch's girlfriend sees the unceremonious delivery as a scoop in the making. Bonnie Nash is a less-than- accurate TV weather woman who's got a bad case of occupational shame ("I'm a pair of breasts that tells you what the weather is going to be tomorrow. Maybe
."). She figures that solving a murder ought to earn her a network promotion. But it's not that easy. When Helen's sister also turns to Hitch for some moral and investigative support, the undertaker finds himself digging through the family closets and unearthing some distinctly unsavory skeletons. It turns out that a taste for the (ahem) silver screen is a Waggoner tradition, and that the sisters have a long--and not particularly affectionate--history. It's up to Hitch to put the pieces of the puzzle together before a hired killer with a peculiar signature takes him
Cockey has a rare gift for sending up the hallowed conventions of mystery fiction with effortlessly wry turns of phrases: "I looked about to assess the scene. I'm six-three, so I have a decent vantage point for assessing." His plot skills have sharpened since his last outing, and the narrative moves along briskly to a conclusion both tidy and ironic. Appropriately enough, though, in this Hearse, the ride is even more fun than the destination. --Kelly Flynn
From Publishers Weekly
HWisecracking undertaker and amateur sleuth Hitchcock Sewell makes a welcome return in this second in Cockey's highly entertaining and well-written series. When the murdered corpse of Helen Waggoner is dumped on the front steps of Baltimore's Sewell & Sons Family Funeral Home, which Hitch runs with his Aunt Billie, it's especially perturbing because a wake is in progress. Hitch's new girlfriend, Bonnie Nash, an inept television weathergirl, convinces Hitch to help her make a career move to investigative reporter by finding out who killed Helen. Naturally, complications arise. Helen's young son, Bo, goes to live with her estranged sister, Vicki, who is being harassed by the boy's jailbird father. The search into Helen's background leads Hitch and Bonnie into the Baltimore netherworld of strip joints, prostitution and pornography. When an up-and-coming lawyer and the owner of a strip joint are murdered in a similar style, the investigation expands. The lawyer represented Dr. Richard Kingman, whose wake Helen's body interrupted, and Hitch discovers a connection between Helen and the Kingman family. As with Cockey's first Hitch Sewell mystery, The Hearse You Came In On (2000), the plot is circuitous, with Hitch and Bonnie making many incorrect assumptions as they work their way through this thoroughly enjoyable novel. (Feb. 7) Forecast: Cockey's colorful Baltimore settings should attract readers who enjoy Laura Lippman's Tess Monaghan series, while his breezy, casual tone, hilarious situations, very quirky, sharply drawn characters and neighborhoods will appeal to fans of Janet Evanovich. Cockey has a more serious side too, offering insightful commentary on family relationships and sibling rivalry, All this adds up to a book that's a natural for handselling, with readers' awareness cultivated via a six-city author tour and teaser chapters in the mass market edition of The Hearse You Came In On, due out on Feb. 1.
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