A CASE OF CROOKED LETTERS
Mystery writer Maude Diamond struggles with deadlines, finances, grief and a crazy householdincluding her eccentric mother-in-law, a widowed daughter, two neurotic dogs, a tyrannical cat and a pair of sassy parrots. Mother-in-law Stella battles feelings of resentment toward a bossy church auxiliary president. Daughter Cee Cee contends with her deceased husband's debts, compulsive eating habits, illness, a new job and an annoying would-be suitor.
The insanity escalates when the community of Morning Shade is bombarded by a series of chain letters demanding money and threatening mayhem. Stella finds fresh purpose in sleuthing down the culprit and turns the town inside-out in the process.
Copeland produces a wacky jumble of humorous characters beset by serious circumstances. Joy wins in the end, but the whiny tone of this second book in the series buffets the reader from all sides and becomes tedious. (Apr., 312 pp., $12.99)
Jill Elizabeth Nelson