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Tristi Pinkston’s novel, Dearly Departed will have you thinking twice about trying to deceive elderly women. (In case you were planning on it. . . .) Ida Mae, Tansy, Arlette, and their new friends, Hattie and George (okay, so he’s an elderly gentleman) take on murders, swindlers and thieves (oh my). Arlette’s lovely granddaughter, Eden, brings them their latest case. It appears that Eden has learned to ask questions like her “aunt” Ida Mae.

“But why do you think she was murdered, exactly?” Eden asked. “If she was in a care center, she obviously wasn’t in the best of health. Otherwise, she wouldn’t be there.”
“She was there mostly for the Alzheimer’s. . . .Physically, she was fit as a fiddle.”
Eden had always wondered about that expression. Just what exactly did “fit as a fiddle” mean? Were fiddles in particularly good health?

Cheerful Tansy and exacting Arlette come to Ida Mae’s aid when she breaks a leg. Their help is not all Ida Mae could ask for.

Ida Mae held up her twisted yarn and heaved a sigh. “It’s no use, Arlette. I’ll never get the hang of it.”
“Didn’t you make all the doilies in this room?”
“No.” Ida Mae hated to confess it, but she’d collected those doilies at yard sales over the years and had been content just to let people think she’d made them herself. . .
“Well, let’s see what we can do.” Arlette took the mess out of Ida Mae’s hands and turned it over, then back, and then upside down. After a long moment of critical observation, she said, “There’s not a thing that can be done with this. Let’s start over.”

Partly to help Eden investigate a claim of foul play at a care center, and partly to escape her over-solicitous friend, Ida Mae checks into the Shady Aspen Rest Home. However, since it is a rest home, convincing anyone that there was a murder becomes a challenge.

“Ah, so you do think there was a murder?”
“No, I most certainly do not. I think you’d be stirring up trouble where it doesn’t need to be stirred. It’s a rest home, Eden. Taking care of people is their business. They wouldn’t let a murder take place under their roof.”
“Does anyone really let murder happen?”

While Eden is overwhelmed with a new romance, Ida Mae whirls around in her new electric chair at 5 mph, and Arlette breaks into an office. We also meet George. “To Ida Mae’s left sat George Gilmore, a charming older gentleman who had very little of his own hair but didn’t seem to mind wearing someone else’s.”

You’ll chuckle your way through this suspenseful murder mystery. Dearly Departed is the second Secret Sisters Mysteries. Get a copy for yourself, and one for a friend. And remember, like Ida Mae would say, “Some days it’s chickens, some days it’s feathers.” I’ll let you figure that one out.

I was glad to be able to interview Tristi, the author:

Me: Dearly Departed has some kick-in-the-pants characters. Everyone loves Ida Mae and her interactions with Tansy and Arlette. Do you see yourself becoming one of them forty years from now?

Tristi: Oh, definitely. Each of my three ladies has pieces of me in her already, so it’s really not that big of a stretch to think that I’m headed down that road myself. I just hope I’m as spunky, smart, and sassy as they are.

Me: What led you to writing Secret Sisters Mysteries?

Tristi; It was one of those “what if” moments that spiraled out of control. My husband and I were discussing how some members of the Church feel as though their home and visiting teachers are spying on them, and I asked the question, “What if they really were spying on those families they were assigned to teach?” It just took off from there.

Me: You have written other genres. One of the heroic moments of pioneer history occurred at the Hole in the Rock. I only recently discovered that you wrote Season of Sacrifice based on the story of one of your own ancestors. What qualities of those people do you most admire?

Trisit: Their absolute commitment to doing what was right. It didn’t matter what the call was, whether to leave their homes in Wales and travel all the way around the world to Utah on no money and with no knowledge of the language, or taking covered wagons down the face of a cliff—once they had their assignment, they went for it, all out. They didn’t say, “Well, we can’t do it.” They said, “Let’s figure out a way to do it, and trust that God will help us.”

Me: I am always impressed with mothers who homeschool. What led you to choose to homeschool?

Tristi: When my sisters were young, they were having a really difficult time with public school. The school they attended was full of bullies and harsh teachers, and they were struggling every day. My mom was anxious for an answer. One day, a friend called her and said, “I’m going to start homeschooling. Come over and help me figure this out.” While helping her friend, my mom was introduced to the concept, and realized this was the answer she’d been searching for. She started her own homeschool, pulled my sisters out of the public school, and never looked back.

I was young enough at the time that I’ve never attended public school, and so it was a natural thing for me to continue on the homeschool tradition with my own children.

Me: What is your favorite subject and how do you teach it?

Tristi: Reading. I have the best phonics program in the world, and my children picked up reading like no one’s business. If you’d like information on how to get a copy of this program, just drop me a note. tristipinkston@gmail.com If you can’t read well, your life won’t be as rich and fulfilling. I consider it the most important piece of education I can give my children.

Me: What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about homeschooling?

Tristi: That we’re all barefoot backwoods hicks, running around in dirty overalls, making moonshine in the back yard. Or that we’re completely socially inept. Yeah, that one’s probably the biggest one right there.

Me: ha ha ha. Back to writing, what are your plans for your writing (next five years)?

Tristi: I’ve just finished writing the last book in the Secret Sisters Series, and I’ve started the first book in the next series, which is a spinoff. I plan to see them all published, along with two cookbooks, and reprints of my first two historical fiction novels, which are currently out of print. Maybe life will throw a few more surprises in my road, but for right this minute, those are my plans.

Me: Sounds like some busy days ahead. Okay, let’s close with something less intense:

Please describe an ideal writing vacation.

Tristi: It would involve me, all by myself, in a quiet house, with my favorite snacks. I’m not sure how to convince everyone to leave, though … me leaving wouldn’t work. I need to be in familiar surroundings to really be able to work.

Me: Describe a dream family vacation.

Tristi: I’m thinking like, a cabin up in the mountains by a lake. We’d cook awesome meals in the kitchen, go for hikes, sit outside and look at the stars. Oh, and put a life jacket on the six-year-old and make him wear it the entire time—he’s our little escape artist/adventurer.

Me: How about a romantic get-away?

Tristi: A beautiful hotel somewhere near a great theater. We’d have a really nice dinner, see a professional show, sleep in a bed I don’t have to make … ha! What am I saying? I hardly ever make my own bed … and just enjoy spending time together in a different environment.

Thanks Tristi for your time and for the opportunity to review such a fun book.

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