Fixing to Die (Southern Ladies Series #4)

Fixing to Die (Southern Ladies Series #4)

by Miranda James

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The New York Times bestselling author of the Cat in the Stacks Mysteries and Digging Up the Dirt returns with the latest Southern Ladies Mystery...

It’s autumn down south, and An'gel and Dickce Ducote are in Natchez, Mississippi, at the request of Mary Turner Catlin, the granddaughter of an old friend. Mary and her husband, Henry Howard, live in Cliffwood, one of the beautiful antebellum homes for which Natchez is famous.
Odd things have been happening in the house for years, and the French Room in particular has become the focal point for spooky sensations. The Ducotes suspect the ghostly goings-on are caused by the living, but when a relative of the Catlins is found dead in the room, An'gel and Dickce must sift through a haunted family history to catch a killer.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780399584770
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/03/2017
Series: Southern Ladies Series , #4
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 116,712
Product dimensions: 4.00(w) x 6.00(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Miranda James is the New York Times bestselling author of the Cat in the Stacks Mysteries and the Southern Ladies Mysteries.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

"Do you mean to sit there and tell me you think Cliffwood really is haunted?" Miss An'gel Ducote regarded her sister with a frown.

Miss Dickce Ducote shrugged. "There've been stories about that house for decades, Sister. Anyway, you know Natchez is supposed to be one of the most haunted towns in the country."

"Yes, I know," An'gel replied with a sniff. "I just don't ever recall hearing that Cliffwood was riddled with ghosts as you put it." Her brow wrinkled as she paused to think. "At least I don't remember hearing Jessamine or her husband, Marshall, ever talk about it."

Dickce snorted. "That old goat. He was too busy running around after women to notice ghosts. How Jessy put up with him for all those years, I'll never know."

"Fifty years ago, women thought they had to put up with it for the sake of their sons," An'gel said. "Not to mention that Jessy would have starved if Marshall had left her for another woman. She was one of the sweetest girls I ever knew, but she could get lost in her own closet. She'd never have kept a job."

"That's a terrible thing to say about an old sorority sister." Dickce snorted with laughter. "Even if it's true." She laughed again.

"At least Marshall had the good sense to die before he threw away all his money; otherwise she'd have had to sell Cliffwood."

"We've wandered away from the subject." Dickce pointed to the letter An'gel held. "Mary Turner and Henry Howard Catlin are asking for our help. Even if we don't quite believe in ghosts, Mary Turner evidently does."

"I know." An'gel laid the letter aside on her desk. "I suppose we could go spend a few days in Natchez and see what's going on. I suspect there's nothing supernatural about it. Someone's playing tricks on them, I'd say."

"You're probably right," Dickce replied. "I'm game to go ghost-hunting, and I'll bet Benjy will get a hoot out of the whole thing."

"No doubt," An'gel said. Their young ward, Benjy Stephens, had a lively intelligence and a healthy curiosity, and he would enjoy seeing the antebellum treasures of Natchez, potential apparitions included. "We can't take that for granted, however, and I wouldn't want him to feel obliged to go if he's uncomfortable with the idea."

"I don't think the idea of ghosts will faze him all that much. Besides, Peanut and Endora can help, too," Dickce said. "Animals are supposed to be sensitive to ghosts. If there are any supernatural presences at Cliffwood, they'll let us know."

"Let's hope they don't run across any tortured spirits that need to be laid to rest." An'gel grimaced. "I'll call Mary Turner and tell her we'll come on Monday. That ought to give you enough time to pack."

Dickce rolled her eyes at her sister. "I'm not the one who has to have a different pair of shoes for every outfit I take."

"If you wore anything other than dark colors in the autumn months, you might see the need." An'gel reached for her cell phone. "Why don't you go tell Benjy about the trip and see what he thinks of the idea of ghost-hunting?"

Dickce nodded and walked out of the study.

An'gel skimmed through Mary Turner's letter again. Given the contents, she wasn't surprised that the young woman had chosen to write a letter, rather than simply calling. An'gel appreciated having the time to think about Mary Turner's story rather than having to respond immediately during a live conversation. She did wonder, however, why Mary Turner hadn't e-mailed her after all. She decided she would ask during the call.

She picked up her cell phone and tapped out the number. After three rings, a high, light voice said, "Hello, Mary Turner Catlin speaking."

An'gel identified herself. "Sister and I were discussing your letter, and of course we'd be happy to help you in any way we can."

Before An'gel could continue, Mary Turner broke in. "Oh, Miss An'gel, bless you and Miss Dickce. Henry Howard and I are about to go stark raving mad, and we didn't know whom else to turn to. Grandmother always said the Ducote sisters never lost their heads in a crisis, no matter what." She paused for a moment. "And if this isn't a crisis, I don't know what is. We're completely booked for Thanksgiving in two weeks, and if word gets out about this, we stand to lose a substantial amount."

An'gel heard a strangled sob. "Your grandmother was a dear friend, and Sister and I will do our best to live up to her confidence in us. I'm sorry that you and Henry Howard are so upset by all this. There's got to be a perfectly rational explanation behind what's happening there."

Mary Turner sobbed again, then choked it off. "I pray every day and night that there is, but we . . ." Her voice trailed off.

An'gel frowned. Had Mary Turner hung up? Or had her darn cell phone dropped the call? She waited a moment for Mary Turner to come back on the line, but when she didn't, An'gel ended the call. After about ten seconds she called again. Mary Turner answered immediately.

"I'm so sorry," the young woman said. "But that's the kind of thing that's always happening. Phone calls get cut off, our e-mails don't go anywhere, all kinds of odd things. That's why I wrote you an actual letter instead of e-mailing you."

"Heavens, this really is a mess," An'gel said, shocked by Mary Turner's words. "I wondered why you chose a letter. I can't remember when I last received an actual handwritten letter from anyone."

Mary Turner sounded grim when she responded. "So far the ghosts haven't been able to stop the post office from working."

"It's no wonder you and Henry Howard are at your wit's end," An'gel said. "Sister and I will be there around lunchtime on Monday, if that's convenient."

"That's wonderful," Mary Turner said. "We'll never be able to thank you enough."

"We're glad to help," An'gel replied. "Now, there is one thing. We'd like to bring our ward, Benjy, with us, along with our dog and cat, Peanut and Endora. Will that be all right?"

"You bring whomever you want," Mary Turner said. "The more help, the better. I've heard that animals are especially sensitive to the supernatural."

"You and Sister," An'gel muttered. Then she spoke so Mary Turner could hear properly. "Thank you, my dear. Help is on the way."

"See you on Monday."

As An'gel laid the phone aside, she reflected that, by the end of the call, Mary Turner had a new note in her voice. She sounded hopeful, An'gel decided.

She was glad she'd managed to make Mary Turner feel better, but she wondered whether she and Dickce had committed themselves to solving a problem that would turn out to be more than they could handle. She figured a real live human being was playing tricks on the Catlins for some unknown purpose, but Cliffwood was an old house. Many sad and unpleasant things had happened there, particularly before, during, and right after the Civil War.

An'gel didn't believe in ghosts-not really-but there had been odd things that happened at Riverhill over the years. Doors closing on their own, the occasional cold spot in a room, small objects moved from their accustomed spots-nothing all that frightening, An'gel reflected, but odd. Definitely odd.

She and Dickce, along with Benjy, would have to keep their wits about them at Cliffwood, she decided. She wouldn't let odd things frighten her away.

The moment Dickce mentioned the word ghosts to Benjy, he grinned.

"Awesome." He looked down at the Labradoodle at his feet. "What do you think of that, Peanut? Are you ready to track down some ghosts?"

The dog gazed adoringly into the young man's face and barked twice. Benjy patted his head. "That means yes."

Dickce smiled and continued to stroke the Abyssinian she held in her arms. "What about you, Endora?"

The reddish-brown feline yawned and stretched, then began to purr.

"Sounds like they're both in," Benjy said. "How long do you think we'll be there?"

"I hope it won't take more than a week to get to the bottom of what's going on," Dickce replied.

A snort sounded from the direction of the stove. Dickce looked over to see the housekeeper, Clementine Sprayberry, arms folded over her chest, frowning at her.

"You and Miss An'gel don't need to go hunting ghosts anywhere," Clementine said. "Especially Natchez. I reckon you've heard how haunted it is. You're just asking for trouble if you go and stir things up."

"That's even more awesome." Benjy laughed. "A whole town that's haunted."

"You laugh all you want to," Clementine said. "I bet you'll be the first one out the door ten seconds after some horrible thing wakes you up in the middle of the night and tries to get you."

"What kind of horrible thing?" Dickce felt a chill at the conviction in the housekeeper's voice. She knew Clementine believed in spirits, and she herself had never made up her mind about them.

"No telling." Clementine shook her head. "Terrible things happened all over that town for three hundred years, and you don't know what might still be lurking."

Benjy's expression of amusement faded, Dickce noticed, in the face of Clementine's unrelenting certainty. He turned to Dickce. "How bad can it really be? I don't know anything about Natchez."

"There are a few books on Natchez in An'gel's study," Dickce said. "The town has a fascinating history, and you might want to do some reading before we go. Terrible things happened during the Civil War when the Union Army took over the town, and Natchez was a violent place in its early days. The books will give you all the details that I can't remember."

Benjy brightened. "Would Miss An'gel mind if I went in there right now to look for the books? If she's really busy, I don't want to disturb her."

"I'm sure she wouldn't mind, even if she is busy." Dickce knew her sister was as pleased about Benjy's interest in reading as she was. They had high hopes for him when he started Athena College the coming spring semester.

"Awesome." Benjy rose from his chair, his sang-froid seemingly restored. "Come on, Peanut, you know Miss An'gel always likes to see you." The dog loped after the young man as Benjy headed out of the kitchen.

"Whereas you, Missy," Dickce said to the cat still nestled in her arms, "are another story. An'gel can't get over the fact that you prefer me." She chuckled.

"Gracious, the way y'all talk to those animals." Clementine laughed.

Dickce shot the housekeeper a pointed glance. "I've heard you talk to them both plenty of times yourself."

"Well, I reckon so." Clementine turned her attention back to the stove and picked the lid up from a pot of chicken and dumplings. "If y'all are going to treat 'em like people, I guess there's no reason I shouldn't do it, too." She stirred the pot for a moment. "Lunch is just about ready. Ten more minutes."

Dickce sniffed appreciatively. "The perfect thing for a cool fall day."

Clementine looked up from the stove. "Miss Dickce, y'all ever told Benjy about the things that go on here sometimes?"

Dickce stiffened, and Endora squeaked a protest. Dickce forced herself to relax. "What do mean, the things that go on here?"

"You know what I mean," Clementine said. "Doors closing all by themselves, things moving around after I've dusted, and you know I know to put things right back in the exact same place they've been the last hundred years." She sniffed. "Unless you and Miss An'gel are going around behind my back, trying to play tricks on me, you know ain't no earthly thing doing that."

"An'gel and I would certainly never play that kind of trick on you, and you know it." Dickce shook her head at the housekeeper. "I don't have any better explanation for it than you do, and to answer your original question, no, I haven't said anything to Benjy. I don't imagine An'gel has either. Since he has his own quarters above the garage, he probably might not ever notice anything here in the house."

"Maybe so." Clementine focused her attention on the stove again. "Still, y'all might better tell that boy, 'specially before y'all go hunting spirits in Natchez."

"You might be right. I'll discuss it with An'gel." Dickce set the cat on the floor. "Come on, Endora. After I wash my hands, we're going to set the table." To her amusement, the cat, after a yawn and a stretch, padded after her to the powder room under the stairs and waited until Dickce finished her ablutions.

While Dickce set the table, Endora sat in the doorway and watched. After a couple of minutes, apparently bored, she disappeared down the hall. Dickce figured she had gone in search of Peanut and Benjy.

Dickce performed her task without giving much thought to what she was doing. Her thoughts focused on the upcoming trip to Natchez, and their reason for going. She hated to admit it-and she doubted she would admit it to An'gel-but Clementine's dire warning had spooked her a little. As had the housekeeper's reminder about the occasional unsettling experience here at Riverhill. She and An'gel really should tell Benjy, she decided. He ought to know, because someday he would most likely be the owner of the house, since she and An'gel had no blood descendants to inherit from them.

The last piece of cutlery in place, Dickce gazed at the table. Had she forgotten anything?

"Looks fine to me," she murmured.

As she continued to think about the housekeeper's words, Dickce felt a prickle on the back of her neck.

What if Clementine is right? What if we stir up something in that house we can't handle?

Chapter 2

Benjy braked the car gently to a halt, shifted into Park, and switched off the ignition. His shoulders ached lightly from the long drive, as did his head, but he figured a little pain was a small price to pay for having arrived at Cliffwood in one piece. Miss Dickce had pouted for a few minutes when Miss An'gel asked him to drive them all the way to Natchez. Miss An'gel refused to budge over her sister's protests. Miss Dickce acted like a good sport and hadn't sulked for long.

If Miss Dickce had driven them, Benjy reckoned, she would have received several tickets coming down the Natchez Trace. The speed limit was only fifty miles an hour, and Miss Dickce had trouble driving less than eighty no matter where she was going. He enjoyed the more leisurely pace because it afforded him the opportunity to appreciate the hues of the fall foliage-rich golds and yellows, vibrant reds, browns, and greens. Where he grew up in Southern California, there was nothing like this panoply of autumn colors.

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Fixing to Die 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved the first two from this series, but this one dragged. Even with the addition of ghosts I had to put this down several times and force myself to pick it up again. This book seemed to not come together at all.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the book overall but I as disappointed with the ending. It seemed rushed and slightly unfinished. Love the two main characters. I hope I have that much spunk when I’m as young as An’gel and Dicksee
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Kept me guessing was a fun read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good reading, some suspence, and always captivating!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This series is a cozy mystery lover’s delight.
KrisAnderson_TAR More than 1 year ago
Fixing to Die by Miranda James is the fourth book in A Southern Ladies Mystery series. An’gel and Dickce Ducote have received a letter from Mary Turner Catlin about strange happening at her home, Cliffwood in Natchez, Mississippi. Mary Turner is at a loss and needs their help. The sisters along with their ward, Bengy (and the pets) pack up and head to Natchez (with Bengy driving so they make it without any speeding tickets and get to enjoy the scenery). Mary Turner was not kidding about the odd things occurring around the house—doors closing on their own, items moving around a room, cold spots, and strange shadows. Is there a ghost at Cliffwood or is someone trying to get the Catlin’s out of their home? The Ducote’s are just getting settled when a psychic shows up at the door saying she was drawn by a spirit who needs her help. But she is not the only unwanted guest. Two cousins and their lawyer descend on Cliffwood and insist upon staying for a few days (just what they need during their vacation time). The next day Nathan Gable (one of the cousins) is found dead in his bed with a frightened expression on his face. Did one of their unexpected guests kill Nathan or was it the spirit haunting Cliffwood? An’gel and Dickce want answers and set out to reveal the truth. Fixing to Die has some lively characters and a beautiful old home for the setting (I would love to live in it). Miranda James did a wonderful job at portraying the accent of people who live in the South along with their characteristics. The story contains some nice writing, but it lacked an ease. I thought Fixing to Die was a slow starter. The murder did not occur until the 48% mark. The murder mystery was straightforward and the majority of readers will identify the perpetrator long before the reveal (it can be deciphered before Henry Howard finds Nathan’s cold body). The “hauntings” and who is behind them is equally unpuzzling. There was little investigation by the sisters. They never looked at the body or checked out the crime scene. Most sleuths would rush to check out both before the police arrive (the body would give them vital clues). An’gel and Dickce asked questions, examined walls (for secret passageways), and endlessly speculated what could have happened. The story is lacking in action and ending was anticlimactic. The author also left some threads dangling at the end of Fixing to Die. My rating for Fixing to Die is 3.5 out of 5 stars. I would not recommend starting with Fixing to Die. I have read the other books in A Southern Ladies Mystery series, and I felt a little lost in the beginning. I liked what was called the Nancy Drew effect (made me laugh). Who doesn’t want to find a secret passageway?
Anonymous 7 months ago
I wish there were more of these mysteries. well written with just enough humor that I could hardly put the book down. please write more!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved the characters!
Carstairs38 More than 1 year ago
Is the House Haunted? Even though I don’t go for the supernatural as a general rule, my mind does turn to spooky stories in October. That’s why Fixing to Die is a perfect release for this month. It’s the fourth entry in Miranda James’s Southern Ladies series, and it finds the main characters traveling to a supposedly haunted house. The house in question belongs to Mary Turner Catlin, the granddaughter of the Misses An’gel and Dickce Ducote’s friend. When they receive a letter from Mary Turner asking them to come and help figure out what is really happening with the strange things that are happening, they quickly agree and set out with their ward Benji and their two pets. They’ve hardly arrived in the house before they start to see strange things happening. Something is definitely going on in the home. Then some uninvited guests begin to arrive, and the tension level increases. What are the Ducote sisters in the middle of now? The way the book is set up, with the old house and what the ghost is doing, I felt shades of the Nancy Drew book The Hidden Staircase. It might have helped that I know the author is a huge fan of the old teen sleuths as well. So naturally, I had to laugh when the characters make that connection early on as well. Does that book play into more than the set up? I’m not going to spoil that for you. I will say the plot could have been a little stronger. Don’t misunderstand, there are some good twists and surprises along the way, but the pacing was off overall. Miranda James is one of my favorite authors, and I certainly enjoyed this book, so this is a very minor issue overall. Of course, part of that is because I absolutely love these characters. While elderly, An’gel and Dickce don’t let that stop them at all. They are feisty, and I love them for it. I’m also a fan of Benji and Peanut and Endora, their pets, who are as enjoyable as always. While most of the book is told from An’gel’s third person point of view, the passages from Dickce and Benji’s point of view not only help flesh out the story but also develop their characters. The rest of the cast is made up of people we meet in this book, and they are strong, which is no real surprise. They keep us guessing until the end and reveal some different sides of themselves as the story moves along. I’m not alone in loving the books by Miranda James, and if you are already a fan, you’ll want to read Fixing to Die. If that isn’t you, you’ll want to fix that today by trying this book. NOTE: I received a copy of this book.
LisaKsBooksReviews More than 1 year ago
Spooky southern mystery fun from author Miranda James. The best book in this series so far, FIXING TO DIE is the grown up, southern version of my favorite childhood Nancy Drew mysteries. With unexplained noises, objects being moved around, and doors that open on their own, not to mention the discovery of a body, this was the perfect tale of mystery. It was wonderful being back with my aunts, ummm . . . I mean the Ducote sisters (I wish I had them for aunts), in this fourth installment of the Southern Ladies mysteries. It’s impossible to not have a good time with sisters An’gel and Dickce. Even when they’re on the hunt for a killer. Perfectly paced, and masterfully written, author James has elevated this series to a new level with the addition of FIXING TO DIE. I was immediately lost in this story, and anticipated each new chapter. I wanted so badly to peek ahead, and so I’m glad I didn’t, or I would have ruined a great surprise ending. FIXING TO DIE is a must read for anyone who loves traditional mysteries.
TarynLee More than 1 year ago
In this next book of the series a family friend named Mary asks the Ducote sisters to Natchez, Mississippi to help her find out just who or what is haunting the B&B that she owns and operates. The sisters immediately agree and pack up their pets and ward to see just what they can discover. As soon as they arrive strange things start happening. When Mary's cousin comes to stay and ends up dead things take a turn for the worse. Did a ghost kill him or was it something more solid. The sisters believe that all that is happening is due to a live person and the haunting is just someones way of trying to cover up what is really going on. Will the sisters be able to find the culprit? Is there a ghost hanging around the B&B? Who would want to kill the cousin? Jump right in and tag along with the Ducote sisters as they try to answer these questions and more. I love that the sisters don't let their age limit them to what they can do, and look forward to whatever exploits come their way.
chefdt More than 1 year ago
Fixing To Die is the fourth book in the A Southern Ladies Mystery series. I love this series and am so happy that the Ducote sisters were able to get their own series. The Ducote sisters have been on this earth for 80 some years and even though their steps might have slowed, their mental faculties remain as sharp as ever. They are a feisty two-some and they may have disagreements from time to time but they are quickly worked out and are always watching out for each other. And to keep an eye on them is their ward, Benjy. Benjy will soon be enrolling at Athena College, but he will be close to continue to help out around Riverhill and watch over Dickcee and An’gel. An’gel, Dickcee and Benjy are headed for Natchez after getting a call Mary Turner Catlin, granddaughter of an old-time friend. She has been experiencing strange happenings in her house and one room in particular. Shortly after the Ducote sisters arrive an unexpected guest arrives, Primrose Pace a psychic, claiming that a spirit had requested her presence at Cliffwood. Then bickering distant cousins, Serenity and Nathan arrive. Serenity is there to try to convince her brother Nathan to give some of her trust fund that he controls. Nathan is there to look for a will he claims to exists giving him the valuable furniture that is in the French Room. The next morning when Nathan doesn’t show up for breakfast Mary Turner husband, Henry Howard, goes to his room to find Nathan has been murdered in his bed. The Ducote sisters, of course, love a good mystery and with Benjy’s help they set off to see if they can sleuth out another murderer. They can’t find too much information on Pace and they are questioning whether she is for real. They need to look into Serenity to how far she would go to get her money. Serenity’s lawyer also seems to be awfully nervous. Also, they will be looking at Mary Turner cook to learn how far she would go to protect Mary Turner’s home. In addition, there is the question of whether the house is indeed haunted Another well-plotted and exciting story with a well-developed and believable cast of characters. I definitely will be watching for the next adventure of Miss Dickcee and Miss An’gel.