No matter how many times I read this book, it never gets old. As a Southern girl (though not quite as Southern as Callie) raised in the mountains but now living in the North, I have two things I turn to when I feel homesick. When I need to "see mountains again, Gandalf, mountains," I watch the Christy TV series from the 90s. I grew up near where it was filmed, so I recognize the beautiful landscape. When I miss the South, I reread this series. The people, the customs and society, and Bojangles (*sigh* Cajun Chicken Biscuits) all are familiar and feels like a homecoming. So please realize, I can't be objective about this book or the series.
Calamine "Callie" Lotion Parrish - so named because her dad was drunk when he had to name her after her mother's death and it was the only pink thing he could think of - left the hazardous and noisy job of herding 5 year olds to work at the local funeral home as their cosmetologist and whatever else they need. Not only does she help give people beautiful memories of their departed loved ones, but it's also quiet.
Well, it is until local well known (and slightly infamous) Bobby Saxton with a string of divorces and known drinking problem dies. His fifth wife, known since school as "Bouncy Betty" for her hyperactivity and...other reasons, wants to send him off grandly - "all that and a bag of chips" - and she certainly does that. Between catered receiving of friends where Callie gets slapped in her stead and a man trying to break into the coffin at the graveside, this is turning out to be one very interesting funeral. However, it's not just the people and the money making this a funeral to remember. When Callie finds a broken off hypodermic needle in his neck as she prepares him, this accidental death turns into murder. Stolen coffins, Callie attacked, and much more means our mystery reading and Six Feet Under loving funeral home worker can't help but try to figure out who done it.
I could go on and on about every detail of this book. Callie is a great character, flawed and human but you can't help but love her. Her friend Jane, blind from birth and never quite growing out of her wild child phase, compliments Miss Parrish while also holding her own. At times, she outshines her friend. All the characters are memorable, people you might recognize growing up in small town Southern America. The mystery is good with not too many suspects, though I can't remember if I figured out the killer the first time.(show spoiler)
Two things that have grown on me since I've started reading more cozies and this has now been part of my life for a number of years: Callie does not become a great investigator overnight and she's basically my age now.
This is a series I'd have never picked up on my own but thanks to my sister, I know it will be a lifelong favorite. One of my all time favorite cozies and one of my firsts.