Saturday, August 11, 2012

Biggie and the Devil Diet – Nancy Bell

The Devil Diet© 2002 St. Martins Minotaur, New York

I first started reading Nancy Bell’s stories about Biggie when they first appeared some sixteen years ago. What appealed to me then was that the author was another Texas native telling mysteries set in Texas, and not just Texas—a fictional setting not so far from my own old stomping grounds. I liked the stories well enough to sit through the first four episodes (I missed number 5, and have just found number 6 to shuffle through).

The stories are told from the point of view of Biggie’s grandson JR Weatherford, who has finally turned thirteen by the time our present story takes place. In the midst of JR learning to deal with all these new feelings that he doesn’t understand (including a weird feeling around a pretty new girl and a newfound need to be disrespectful to Biggie), he discovers that his actual grandfather was not the man Biggie had been married to all those years, but an earlier love who became a wealthy race car driver and entrepreneur.

Just about the time JR gets to know Rex, the grandfather is shot, but not before changing his will to include the young Weatherford. Mixed in are all the lovable and nosy characters from previous Biggie stories, and we are treated to one of Willie Mae’s recipes (Willie Mae and Rosebud live in the “servants’ quarters” type house behind Biggie and JR, and Willie Mae cooks and cleans for Biggie) at the end of the story.

This story includes a ranch converted into a “fat” farm for young girls, a tornado that does significant damage to Job’s Crossing, and a dilemma brought on when JR forgets that he’s asked his long-time best friend Monica to the dance and asks Misty (the pretty newcomer) as well.

The story moves relatively quickly as with all the Biggie stories. The biggest drawback when you visit Job’s Crossing is the dialect. In attempting to give color and character to the inhabitants of our little east Texas village, Bell often overdoes it. Even so, I’d be glad to recommend this to any and all cozy mystery connoisseurs with a four reading glasses rating.

—Benjamin Potter, August 11, 2012

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