I read cozy and historical mysteries, a bit of Paranormal/UF, and to mix it up, I read science and gardening books on occasion.
This was a re-read for me, but the last time I read it was before I kept track of dates or wrote any reviews, so long enough that it almost felt like a new read.
Carolyn Hart is probably the only author currently publishing that comes close to the Grande Dames of Mystery: Christie, Sayers, Mertz, Rinehart, etc. Her plots are always intricate, her writing excellent, if sometimes excessive, and her characters well developed and complex, with the possible exception of her two protagonists: Max and Annie are always happy and always in love. Perhaps Hart is too emotionally invested in the Darlings, or perhaps she chooses to retain that vintage-mystery formula of the perfect marriage as a contrast and balance to the dysfunction of all the suspects. Either way, the stories usually trump the irritation of perfection.
Southern Ghost feels like Hart's homage to the gothic mysteries of the early 20th century: old house, old family, deep secrets, and ghosts walking the bluffs. Dark and stormy nights, power outages, and old sins casting long shadows. In typical cozy fashion, justice prevails and there's a happy ending, but nobody comes out of this one (save Max and Annie, of course) unscathed; everybody loses as all the skeletons are flushed out of the closets and the bodies pile up. This is a cozy, but not the modern, saccharine interpretation.
This is the 8th in the series, but with the exception of references to off-stage recurring characters, there's no reason why this book could not be read as a stand-alone. To anyone considering giving cozies a try, I recommend trying Hart's Death on Demand series to see cozies at their best.
I'm using this book as my Grave or Graveyard square in Halloween Book Bingo (the cover, of course, but the initial crime takes place in a graveyard too.)