by Deborah Sharp


Meet Mama: a true Southern gal with impeccable manners, sherbet-colored pantsuits, and four prior husbands. She may serve sweet tea and sidestep alligator attacks with equal aplomb, but Mama's penchant for mischief drives her grown girls -- Mace, Maddie, and Marty -- to distraction.

One night, Mama gets into trouble for real. There's a body in the trunk of her turquoise convertible, and the police think she's the killer. It doesn't help that the hunky detective assigned to the case seems determined to prove Mama's guilt, or that the cowboy who broke Mace's heart shows up at the drive-thru Booze 'n' Breeze in the middle of the investigation. Mace and her sisters must find the real culprit or Mama goes to prison, just like an embarrassing lyric from a country-western song.
Excerpt: Chapter One

    Mama just wanted to look pretty for high-stakes bingo night at the Seminole Casino.

    But her beautician left the peroxide on too long, and she's been shedding like an Angora sweater ever since. Now, it turns out a patchy dye job is the least of my mother's worries.

    It all started with a phone call. I was just about to plop down in front of the TV, wanting to see if I could spot any of my ex-boyfriends on Cops, when the damned thing rang.

    "Mace, honey, you've got to come down here and help me. I'm in a lot of trouble."

    Mama's voice was shaking. She sounded scared, like the time the raccoon came crashing from the attic through the bathroom ceiling while my little sister, Marty, was in a bubble bath.

    "Slow down, Mama," I told her. "Now, take a deep breath."

    My mother is excitable. I'm used to such calls. Maybe she needed me to solve a romantic crisis, or come pluck a snake out of the engine of her vintage turquoise convertible. I work outdoors in Himmarshee, Florida, in the wild regions north of Lake Okeechobee. I'm accustomed to snakes.

    "Start at the beginning, and tell me what's wrong."

    I heard a shuddery sigh, and then silence. She cleared her throat. Finally, she spoke.

    "They've got me down here at the police station, Mace. They think I've killed a man."

    If the kitchen counter hadn't been there for me to grab a hold of, I'd have fallen out flat on the checkerboard pattern of my linoleum floor. I leaned my back against the wall and slid down slowly until my butt hit the baseboard. There I sat, clutching the receiver and searching for the proper response when your mother announces she's got one foot behind bars for murder.

    "Just sit tight and don't say another word. I'll be there as soon as I can."

    I knew my advice would go untaken. The only time Mama's mouth is shut is when she's chewing on something.

    "There was a man's body in my trunk, Mace."

    A strangled sob came through the phone. Then the story started pouring out.

    "There was an accident." All her words began to run together. "Everything started at the Dairy Queen. Or maybe at bingo. I'd ordered me a butterscotch dip. Then, two police cars came. I couldn't even get a second cone. A pretty young girl hit me. The man had a diamond pinky ring." She stopped for a breath. "You'd better call your sisters, Mace."

    The ability to make sense deserts Mama under stress. That doesn't mean she stops trying. I needed to get to her before she conversated herself right into a correctional facility . . ."

From Mama Does Time (A Mace Bauer Mystery) © 2008 by Deborah Sharp

Deborah Sharp - author of the Mace Bauer Mystery series...
About the Author

Deborah Sharp is a former reporter for USA Today. She left the sad stories of the news business behind to write her "Mace Bauer Mystery" series, set in a sweet-tea-and-barbecue slice of her native Florida. The books are traditional mysteries, with a funny, Southern-fried edge: Think Agatha Christie, if she had a couple of cousins named Bubba.

Deborah, a member of Sisters in Crime, has also served on the board of Mystery Writers of America-Florida Chapter. She is married to TV reporter Kerry Sanders, a correspondent for NBC News.