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352 pages
Mar 2008
WaterBrook Press

When Zeffie Got a Clue (Christy Castleman Mysteries #3)

by Peggy Darty

Review  |   Author Bio  |  Read an Excerpt


Peggy Darty’s book When Zeffie Got a Clue, a cozy mystery, deals with perseverance against the odds. Christy Castleman helps her aunt Bobbie run a small trash-to-treasure shop, which is where little Zeffie brings in a jewelry box to sell. It happens to contain a clue to the decades-old murder of Kirby Strickland. Christie feels an obligation to solve the murder of this man because he once saved her life, so she begins a long and slightly dangerous search for truth. Although time has passed, the biblical mandate, “You have sinned against the LORD, and be sure your sin will find you out,” (Numbers 32:23) is a driving force in this plot.

Darty gradually unfolds clues to the past through current characters’ eyes. Christie searches for clues in every possible place and runs into numerous characters; however, few characters stand out. Christie is quite sweet and a fairly strong Christian. Her only flaw is a slightly stubborn streak. Her parents are ideal; her boyfriend is wonderful; and her aunt is adorable and kind. Little Zeffie, an orphan, is as sweet as can be and highly intelligent. Basically, all the characters except the murderer are great people, if a little bland. They all care for Christie, and , unfortunately, they all sound remarkably alike.

Every character in Christie’s life worries when she and her curiosity go searching for clues to the murder. Her parents caution her against getting involved, her aunt tells her to drop it, and her boyfriend tries to distract her from the case. This creates tension as she tries to please them and satisfy her curiosity at the same time. In fact, this is just about the only tension in the book. There is little to no action – beside interviewing people for clues – until the last twenty pages of the book. The only slight exception to this is when the killer breaks into her house and leaves a threatening message, but nothing comes of it until those last few pages.

Christie shows perseverance in chasing down clues in odd places and piecing together fragments of hints, but the mental gymnastics take up most of the book. Readers will be pleased to find that she solves the mystery, with a few twists thrown in, so this is a good book for anyone who loves to sort through and analyze details. However, if you seek a mystery with adventure, this is not the book for you.

I found this book to be rather disappointing. It seemed to offer interesting plot and characters at the beginning of the book, but it stretched on far too long as Christie failed to make connections that I made early on, then made some leaps of logic at the end without revealing how she got there. It also hinted at adventure but failed to include much. It’s a decent book, but certainly not outstanding. -- Corinne Hills,

Book Jacket:

It’s an ordinary afternoon in Summer Breeze, Florida, when a young, wide-eyed girl steps into I Saw It First, the trash-to-treasure shop Christy Castleman and her Aunt Bobbie have opened. Clutching a jewelry box, Zeffie Adams tells Christy she needs money to pay her grandmother’s medical bills, prompting Christy to offer this curious visitor more than the jewelry box is worth–or so she thinks.

But complicated questions form when Christy rips out the box’s lining and uncovers a clue to a cold case murder mystery from eight years ago. Despite warnings from her family and handsome boyfriend Dan Brockman, Christy decides to do a little detective work of her own. After all, the infamous murder happened close to her grandmother’s farm. How risky could it be to take the jewelry box back to the Strickland plantation and ask around about it?

Soon Christy finds there is more to the small box than someone wants her to know. A jewelry theft. A mansion murder. Dangerous family secrets buried in history. Can Christy convince others to let go of the past before it’s too late?