"The Last Days Murder List"
(Reviewed by Judi Clark APR 22, 2000)
Billiemae is ditsy. And clumsy. Especially on a bad day, like the one she's had today. It's a busy, busy Friday night at Momma LaVerne's, where she waits tables, and she's bumping and sloshing all kinds of people. To add insult to injury, Momma points out how she should have fixed herself up a little better before coming to work, but with her afternoon, she was lucky she managed to come in at all. Killing your neighbor can really set the evening off on the wrong note.
One of Billiemae's current clients being subjected to her bad day is Maris Lane, an uppity black woman who grew up on the white side of town and truly belonging to neither community. Why she's decided to start her weekend off at Momma's is beyond Billiemae. What she doesn't know is how Maris's marriage to Rick Lane is turning out. Maris is tired of her husband's lack of responsibility in the financial department, especially his intent on living the good life. He also likes to keep his wife under control. There is no doubt about it, Rick Lane is a world class jerk, but with Maris's upbringing she's not going to admit she's made a mistake, marrying on the rebound like she did. But at least she's trying to reclaim some of her old self by stepping out alone this evening, instead of going to her husband's last minute party that they can't afford.
Speaking of her mistake, the man Maris jilted, is at Momma's as well. Pharaoh is the handsome golden-eyed gentleman that Billiemae would give anything if she could hold his permanent attention. But everyone in Denver's small African-American community knows that Pharaoh is not over Maris. Billiemae resents Maris for being uppity enough to have Pharaoh's heart and not wanting it.
Back to Billiemae's problem. She was just having an afternoon drink with her neighbor, Amelia, when, well... things happen. Billiemae figures that accident or not, if she calls the police, she might as well pack up for jail. Her sister Barbara is already there and it's not a stretch to figure that if one Black sister is guilty, the police would certainly jump to conclusions about the other. So Billiemae is scared and needs help. She finally decides that Pharaoh does owe her one favor and she has all faith that he'll figure out what to do about the body lying on the kitchen floor in the apartment across the hall.
The Last Days Murder List is a cozy-style mystery novel with a few twists, light humor and a plot that leaves plenty of bodies in its wake. The reference to the title is made during chapter one. Prior to her death, Amelia would joke about keeping a list of people she'd take out if she knew when she was to die. Too late for her list. But over the course of the next few days, someone's murder list is growing. Billiemae and Pharaoh are an enjoyable amateur detective team with plenty of banter and antics. Meanwhile, the social implications of spousal abuse, and the motivation of the victim's behavior, is explored in the Maris and Rick Lane situation. There are many more people to this community, all having their own role in the mystery that's unraveling. Whether or not this novel speaks true of the African-American experience, I can't say. Black or white, the underlying implications of the battered wife syndrome is on target.
I hope that Alice Holman is planning on writing more about this busybody community and lets Billiemae and Pharaoh loose to solve more crimes. This is a good team and l enjoy the care and support of their friendship. It's easy to see why Billiemae wants more out of their relationship.
- Amazon readers rating: from 11 reviews
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
- The Last Days Murder List (May 2000)
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- Read an excerpt from The Last Days Murder List
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About the Author:
Alice Holman was born in Montgomery, Alabama and lived all over the world as the daughter of a career Air Force Officer. She currently writes part time while employed. The Last Days Murder List is the Winner of the Chester Himes Super Sleuth Award for 2001. She lives in Denver, Colorado with her husband, and, her Chihuahua, Alvin.