Between the Covers
Giving Up the Ghost by Helen Chappell
Reviewed by Carol Glover
There's nothing like a good paperback mystery. It makes a perfect beach book packed in your beach bag along with sunglasses, suntan lotion, spare change and a beverage of choice.
Helen Chappell's new mystery Giving Up the Ghost is a fine choice for late summer vacation reading. It's a laugh-out-loud mystery with every chapter name an Elvis Presley song title.
Peopled by interesting characters like Lucca "Bang Bang" Devine, a member of a minor Baltimore crime family, Chappell's newest makes fun of everything Elvis. She also has a field day with local happenings like the building of the Baltimore football stadium and Maryland's gambling issue. As Maryland residents, we can savor the inside jokes and political asides.
Chappell's forté is poking fun in a sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek yet kind, down-home way. The accent, rhythm and colorful speech of our Eastern shore inhabitants and their foibles drip from every page. She also takes on daytime television and the New Age holistic movement.
Chappell - a resident of rural Easton, writer of the Oysterback Tales and a contributor to New Bay Times and The Baltimore Sun - is the author of a series of Sam and Hollis Mysteries: Slow Dancing with the Angel of Death, Dead Duck, Ghost of a Chance and now Giving Up the Ghost. The series features Hollis Ball and her dead - or, as Chappell describes him, "living-impaired" - former husband Sam Westcott. He appears from time to time to cajole, prod and advise.
Hollis covers the crime beat for the Watertown Gazette on Maryland's Eastern Shore. Her godfather, Albie Lydekker, returns to the Eastern Shore from Las Vegas to judge an Elvis impersonator contest for the Chesapeake Chapter of Elvis Tribute Society. As judges, Lydekker, Hollis Ball and local sitting judge Frank Carroll will help choose the Chesapeake Elvis Tribute Artist. First place prize is to die for: blue suede shoes worn by The King himself.
As the many Elvis impersonators show up, murder and mayhem follow. Dead Elvii - and some of the ways they die are pretty clever - pop up everywhere. Hollis' godfather Albie is accused of murder. Hollis and friends try to find out who really done it.
How did the idea for this diabolical Elvis caper originate? Chappell, who considers Elvis "an American cultural icon," has many explanations.
"He's the patron saint of American culture, the God of Excess. I've always found him interesting and thought wouldn't it be fun if I killed off Elvis impersonators in creative ways. It's also a great way to tell some funny Elvis jokes. I didn't realize death could be so funny."
I chuckled, guffawed, chortled and cachinnated my way through the book. Not only is Giving Up the Ghost entertaining, it's educational too. I learned that the plural of Elvis is Elvii.
Giving Up the Ghost, a Dell Paperback, is a Mystery Guild Alternate.
Editor's note: There's nothing we at NBT like better than a good book, so we've been wanting to report on them forever. But as much as we like to read, we can't do it all ourselves. So, as "Between the Covers" joins our coverage of movies, plays and restaurants, we ask for your help. Let us know what books we should be reading and writing about. Naturally, our special interest is Chesapeake Country, whether it's home to the book's plot or to its author.
We need your help in another way, too. We're looking for good readers who are also good writers. If you fit the bill or have written before, drop us a line. Published articles earn you a book, a small honorarium and a big audience.
Introduce yourself to Editor Sandra Martin at New Bay Times, P.O. Box 358, Deale, MD 20751 ·fax 410/867-0307 email [email protected].
| Issue 33 |
Volume VII Number 33
August 19-25, 1999
New Bay Times
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