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Brand New, Unread Copy in Perfect Condition. A+ Customer Service! Summary: "A warm and witty novel . . . Brown's richly woven characters, with their quirky ways and fierce protectiveness of family traditions, are at once strange and strangely familiar." CONNIE BRISCOE, author ofP.G. County "A quirky family mystery with loads of tangy charm. A delightful read!" VALERIE WILSON WESLEY, author ofDying in the Dark "A superb debut novel, full of vividly drawn, complex characters. Elaine Brown's writing is gorgeous and beautifully blends romance, black culture, and mystery. This is a treat!" YOLANDA JOE, author ofMy Fine Lady "Lemon Cityis a superb debut novel, full of vividly drawn, complex characters. Elaine Brown's writing is gorgeous and beautifully blends romance, black culture, and mystery. It is a treat!" YOLANDA JOE, author ofMy Fine Lady From the Trade Paperback edition. Codice inventario libreria

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Riassunto: In this wry fiction debut, Elaine Meryl Brown plunges lucky readers into a gripping narrative of small-town hijinks and big-time hearts.

Rule Number One: Never marry an Outsider. If you do, the boll weevil will bite you back. Rule Number Two: If you can?t be honest, you might as well be dead.

Nestled in the foothills of Virginia?s Blue Ridge mountains, Lemon City has ten rules, all designed in the best interests of its tight-knit black community. Granddaddy Dunlap knows all too well what can happen to folks who venture beyond Lemon City?s protective borders. He once had to venture outside town to identify his best friend?s body. So when his firebrand granddaughter Faye, returns from college married to an Outsider, he must act fast to keep her in Lemon City?s safe embrace.

It proves to be a challenge?and not just because the patriarch is distracted by the tensions arising from the heated tomato-growing contest for the annual county fair. Faye?s new husband, Harry, is a slick talker with a roving eye. Faye sees him as her ticket to New York City, where she hopes to fulfill big business dreams, but even the best-laid plans can be thwarted, as Faye discovers that marriage itself isn?t much of a honeymoon. No matter. She packs her bags, fully prepared to head north with or without her husband, when Harry turns up dead. Now the Dunlap family is trying to figure out?before the Thanksgiving turkey gets cold?who did the deed.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Estratto. © Riprodotto con l'autorizzazione. Tutti i diritti riservati.: CHAPTER ONE

thanksgiving day, 1973

If Harry were going to die, it was a good thing he picked a holiday. Since the Dunlap family was normally together on Thanksgiving Day, being under house arrest wasn't too much of an inconvenience.

With one eyebrow raised, Louise checked out the activity around the dinner table. She couldn't believe that her family seemed to be more preoccupied with eating food than with facing the possibility of any one of them going to jail. Everyone was carrying on like nobody had died, as if the only dark meat to consider was on the porcelain platter, not lying on a stainless-steel slab in the morgue. If anyone had asked her, that's where she'd say the real turkey lay, frozen on ice, not crispy, oven-baked, and carved on Nana's fine china. She knew they'd have to get their alibis straight. Before they all retired for the evening, she'd have to make sure they'd shared their stories so there'd be no holes when the sheriff came calling in the morning to question them. Even though Louise felt sorry for her sister, Faye, she also felt Faye should never have married her newly deceased husband. But it's hard to advise a baby sister, Louise told herself to prevent from feeling guilty, as she passed the turkey platter to Faye.

Faye jabbed the meat with her fork like she meant to hurt it. After lifting it onto her plate, she used her finger like a crowbar to remove the chunks of dark meat from the tines, much as she had pried herself away from Harry. Ever since she was a little girl, she'd wanted to have a husband, but she had never once considered that her marriage would end, never mind conclude with her husband on a cold metal slab. Under different circumstances, Harry's death might have been perceived as a tragedy. But toward the end of their relationship, there had been no love lost between them. Because the whole town knew their marriage was falling apart, Faye only hoped the finger-pointing wouldn't be aimed just at her, especially since her family had grown to dislike Harry, much like rust rapidly spreading across a cast-iron pan. She knew the townspeople felt she had picked the wrong husband and believed she had brought this mess upon herself.

Lemon City never took kindly to strangers, but Faye Dunlap was a nonconformist. She had broken the Outsider Rule and now her husband, Harry, was dead--dead as the turkey stuffed with a red apple, lying belly-up on Nana's knotty pine table covered with Lincoln lace. As Faye stared at the turkey, it reminded her of the last time she'd seen Harry, flat on his back on their living room floor with his stomach distended and a tomato lodged in his mouth.

This year, out of respect for the dead, there were no tomatoes tossed into Nana Dunlap's mixed-greens salad. Even though there were bushels of her homegrown tomatoes sitting idle in her backyard, Nana had used freshly picked radishes from her garden to add color to the lettuce and cucumber instead.

Granddaddy Dunlap bowed his head and said the grace. "Dear Lord, thank you for the food on this table this Thanksgiving Day and for bringing this family together--minus one. Amen."

Normally, when death sneaks up without warning and steals away a family member, the living feel robbed. That wasn't the case with Harry. He was a mean man and had deserved to die, but trouble hadn't died with him, not completely. His demise had raised suspicion about the family, making everyone at the table suspect. Now they were all under house arrest; they had to stay put until tomorrow morning, when the Jefferson County Sheriff came by to start the murder investigation.

If Granddaddy had told his grandchildren once he had told them a thousand times: never marry an Outsider. It was one of ten sacred rules that had protected Lemon City over the years, insulating the town like plastic wrap from the rest of the world, preserving its sacred customs. He had difficulty with the thinking of today's young people; their whole notion of "self" and "finding one's self" was disturbing to him. As far as he knew, young folks did what they wanted to do and didn't pay attention to the consequences. They totally disregarded the fact that their ancestors had already looked at life for them, so that all they had to do was listen and do what they were told. But no, today's young people acted on their own. And the thing that led them to this independence, the thing they referred to as "discovering their individuality," he didn't think was a benefit to the colored community in general. There wouldn't be a Lemon City if their ancestors hadn't stuck together, keeping the distractions that strangers brought with them at a distance. Being together as one and living life with common goals were the only ways the townspeople could survive. That was the reason The Rules had been invented in the first place.

Granddaddy and Nana were living proof that if you obeyed them, The Rules worked. Their forty years of marriage were the result of being grounded in their roots, being fed the same nutrients from the same soil. On the other hand, his late grandson-in-law, Harry Lee Thompson, had few roots; the roots Granddaddy had witnessed over the course of a year had grown only for his granddaughter, then withered and died. No, Harry was definitely not the husband he would have chosen for his granddaughter, Faye, but she hadn't asked him for his opinion. That's why everyone at the table was in this convoluted mess. He lifted the turkey platter and took a helping of dark meat, and then went back for two slices of white. He then passed the platter to his right, to his grandson, Billy.

Billy felt a sense of relief. The worry lines on his forehead had started to relax and the ache in his trick knee had begun to fade now that his pain-in-the-ass brother-in-law was gone. Harry's sorry ass was out of sight and never coming back. As much as it was his job to uphold the law, Billy knew from experience that there were just some matters that needed to be taken into your own hands. He helped himself to turkey, and then served his wife, Elvira, sitting next to him. Rationing food to Elvira was a habit he had developed at family gatherings over the past few years, as a way of helping her to manage her weight. Even though he loved that she was plump in all the right places, big-boned yet firm like hard rubber, he didn't want her to start jiggling like the jellied cranberry sauce that wobbled on the saucer every time someone bumped against the table.

Moving her eyes back and forth like an eagle trying to get close enough to catch its prey, Elvira watched as Billy calculated exactly how much she should consume at dinner. Knowing he enjoyed a sense of control, she let him go through his ritual thinking he was in charge. She would do whatever made him happy. If she got hungry later, she'd go back for seconds, even thirds, and not pay him any mind even if he cleared his throat or rattled his silverware on the table. There was no mistaking the meaning behind the way Billy took his time to serve her, the way he picked out each slice of turkey with such care that she understood he catered to her plate purely out of love. She looked across the table at Faye. She felt sorry for her sister-in-law, who hadn't had the chance to experience the kind of love only a good man knows how to give a woman. Now that Harry was out of the way, dead as a slug caught out in the sun after a heavy rain, Faye would find out. Turning her attention back to Billy, she saw he was topping off the turkey with brown gravy, limiting the passage of kidney and gizzard chunks onto her plate with a slotted spoon. He handed the platter to her and she passed it over to Nana.

Sitting opposite Granddaddy at the other end of the table, Nana was happy to have more elbow room, a little more space for resting platters and serving the meal, now that they didn't have to accommodate her granddaughter's recently expired husband, Harry. She didn't miss the tall, lanky, coffee brown body that reminded her of a stick of beef jerky, squeezing between her granddaughters Faye and Louise at her table. Regardless of the room they'd created for Harry, he never quite seemed to fit in. As she transferred some dark meat onto her plate, Nana noticed the air seemed to be lighter than usual, and the house appeared to be brighter, despite the fact it was an overcast and dreary day outside. Yes, indeed, the darkness had lifted. She was content to have her original family back together again.

Faye daydreamed about her dead husband at the Thanksgiving table, wondering whether or not he would have decided at the last minute to come up North with her, or if he would have chosen to stay in Lemon City. To get her attention, Nana pushed the cornbread stuffing under her nose. Taking the bowl from her grandmother, Faye scooped a tablespoon of the lumpy yellow meal onto her plate and went back to collecting her thoughts. She couldn't help feeling responsible for Harry's demise, as well as a strong sense of regret. If only she hadn't ignored the Outsider Rule, her situation might be different. How she wished she could start this part of her life over again, pick up from the day she'd met Harry on campus. Instead of stopping to talk to him when he called her, she should have kept right on walking and never looked back. Better yet, she should have had the courage to leave Lemon City on her own to begin with, instead of thinking she needed to be married in order to escape it.

"I still can't believe the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office took me off this case," said Billy.

"Billy, they had to take you off the case because of the conflict of interest," said Louise, not caring that she was talking with her mouth full.

"You can't investigate the death of your own brother-in-law, especially when the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office thinks you may have been involved," Faye added. "But i...

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Brown, Elaine Meryl
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