By: Darden North
Publisher: WordCrafts Press
Publication Date: June 2017
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: June 22, 2017
In his newest book, author Darden North has penned a mystery in which the bodies keep piling up, and the reader is kept guessing about who/why all these people died and whether their murders might be connected.
Doctor Diana Bratton is having a bad day. People around her just keep dying. It's true that she's a surgeon, working in a hospital, but it's definitely disconcerting. As the story opens, Diana has come to her Aunt Phoebe's house to check up on the sixty-plus year-old woman. Phoebe has been ill - with the flu perhaps? - and Diana decides it's time to take her to the hospital. As they're getting into the car, Phoebe's neighbor, Carvel Eaves, approaches and greets the ladies. Carvel likes to pick up trash during his walks to help keep the street clean. He tells Phoebe that he found an old piece of paper, apparently written by Phoebe, about "The Five Manners of Death." Phoebe shrugs it off, saying it was just an old college English writing assignment. Phoebe isn't concerned (about her health or the paper) as Diana hustles her to the hospital, but that English composition will come back to haunt Phoebe...
While Phoebe is in the hospital being treated, Diana's ex-husband Alex brings his current wife Blythe in for an exam. Blythe hasn't been feeling well and Alex wants his ex to check her out. While they may be divorced, Alex and Diana do have a daughter so they stay in touch. When Blyth dies, followed by a pharmacist Diana knows, she starts to worry. When a construction worker discovers the remains of a man who died in the 60s on the edge of the University of Mississippi campus, and it turns out the young man was a friend of Phoebe's, Diana's concern turns to outright worry. She has connections at the police station that she uses to try and help clear her aunt's name. But when yet another body is found, it looks like Phoebe may just be guilty...
Set in Mississippi, with a cast that includes not just the characters but the environs around the University of Mississippi, The 5 Manners of Death was a story that kept me guessing throughout. Phoebe was definitely the star of the story as a strong-willed woman with a dash of Southern humor thrown in - she's a woman most people wouldn't want to mess with. A unique twist to this mystery was that there wasn't just one, or two murders to solve, but a whole slew of deaths. And they all fit nicely into Phoebe's "5 Manners of Death" college English paper. Trying to figure out if the deaths were natural or homicides, if they were connected, and if they truly all (or some) pointed to Phoebe was a challenge. While the author does reveal a partial "who-dunnit-it" near the middle of the story (I can't say more without giving too much away), it only adds to the mystery of who killed Phoebe's college friend back in the sixties. In all, The 5 Manners of Death is a satisfying mystery that brings those five manners of death - natural, accidental, suicidal, homicidal and undetermined - to light in a new and unusual way.
Quill says: The 5 Manners of Death is a great read with enough twists and turns to keep you guessing until the very end.