Bell, Nancy 1932–
BELL, Nancy 1932–
PERSONAL: Born in 1932.
ADDRESSES: Office—c/o Author Mail, St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Ave., Rm. 1715, New York, NY 10010.
AWARDS, HONORS: Agatha Award nomination, best first mystery, 1997, for Biggie and the Poisoned Politician.
Biggie and the Poisoned Politician, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1996.
Biggie and the Mangled Mortician, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1997.
Biggie and the Fricasseed Fat Man, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1998.
Biggie and the Meddlesome Mailman, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1999.
Biggie and the Quincy Ghost, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2001.
Biggie and the Devil Diet, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2002.
Restored to Death, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2003.
SIDELIGHTS: Nancy Bell's first mystery novel, Biggie and the Poisoned Politician, appeared in 1996 and was nominated for the 1997 Agatha Award for best first mystery. This book, set in the fictional eastern Texas town of Job's Crossing, features a protagonist named Fiona Wooten Weatherford, a woman better known as Biggie. Biggie is a rich landowner with a voodoo-practicing cook named Willie Mae, whose husband Rosebud has served as Biggie's handyman and gardener ever since being released from prison. Biggie's preteen grandson, J. R., narrates the novel's events, which begin with a bang when insurance salesperson Wade Crabtree's car explodes in Biggie's driveway. Things heat up further when the mayor of Job's Crossing dies during dessert at the Owl Cafe.
Biggie and the Poisoned Politician met with a predominantly favorable response from reviewers. A Library Journal reviewer recommended the novel, comparing Bell to actor and author Fannie Flagg, who also wrote of the South in her novel Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe and the screenplay for the film Fried Green Tomatoes. A Kirkus Reviews contributor observed that the book "pulls out all the stops in the down-home, good ol' boys, southern-fried chicken pantheon," and called it a "fresh" and "funny" novel. Writing in Booklist, Stuart Miller hailed Biggie and the Poisoned Politician as "a very successful debut," asserting that Bell's characters "are depicted with honesty and great flair."
Bell followed Biggie and the Poisoned Politician with Biggie and the Mangled Mortician. This mystery returns to Job's Crossing, Texas, and again features Biggie and the young J. R. In Biggie and the Mangled Mortician, Biggie is raising money so that the town's train depot can be converted into a museum. As the director and actor of a fundraising operetta, Biggie gives a part to the town's new mortician, Monk Carter. When Carter misses a rehearsal, Biggie and J. R. seek him out at home, only to find the man dead. Once again, Biggie sets out to solve the case and see that justice is served. According to Harriet Klausner, writing in the online review Painted Rock, Biggie and the Mangled Mortician is "fabulous" and a "fun to read novel," populated by a "cast of eccentric characters."
Bell's Biggie and the Fricasseed Fat Man follows Biggie and J. R. on another mystery, this time in search of the person responsible for the murder of one of the owners of Firman Birdson's chicken restaurant. The dead body was found under a table in the kitchen, drenched in gravy and garnished with parsely. A Publishers Weekly reviewer noted, "Bell sticks to a formula, but it's one that involves the tried and true: low-key country humor, Southern eccentricities and lots of saturated fat in the food." Rex E. Klett of Library Journal called the book "a humorous read."
Bell's next tale, Biggie and the Meddlesome Mailman received favorable reviews from critics. After Biggie and J. R. stumble upon the body of the town's nosy mailman, Luther Abernathy, they are plunged into another mystery. Booklist reviewer Stuart Miller dubbed the book "another delightful episode in a genuinely charming series." Library Journal's Rex E. Klett called the book "spirited and witty fun."
Bell continued the series with Biggie and the Quincy Ghost and Biggie and the Devil Diet. A Kirkus reviewer called Biggie and the Devil Diet "flamboyantly folksy," while Booklist reviewer Jenny McLarin noted that the book was "a charming foray into life in small-town Texas" and "the perfect book to read while sitting in a rocking chair on the porch, sipping iced tea." Biggie and the Devil Diet follows Biggie and J. R. as they explore the murder of Rex, the owner of the Bar-LB Ranch and J. R.'s long-lost grandfather who built the ranch to serve as a camp for overweight, adolescent girls. The book explores the murder and J. R.'s blossoming interest in girls.
Bell's novel Restored to Death leaves behind the "Biggie" series and journeys to a new town in Texas, focusing on Judge Jackson Crain and his thirteen-year-old daughter, Patty. When Crain's sister-in-law is murdered, he must step in and help clear his brother-in-law's name. While a Kirkus Reviews critic thought the book was "big on cliches" and "short on drama, cunning and motivation," Rex E. Klett noted in Library Journal, "Quaint characters and locales, frequent humor, and comfy prose commend this [book] to all collections." "Bell's plot sprawls like its location, but it all comes together in a most unexpected and gratifying conclusion," commended a Publishers Weekly reviewer.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Armchair Detective, summer, 1996, p. 359.
Booklist, April 1, 1996, p. 1345; October 15, 1999, Stuart Miller, review of Biggies and the Meddlesome Mailman, p. 421; August, 2001, Stuart Miller, review of Biggie and the Quincy Ghost, p. 2094; November 1, 2002, Jenny McLarin, review of Biggie and the Devil Diet, p. 476.
Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 1996, pp. 487-488; November 1, 1999, review of Biggie and the Meddlesome Mailman, p. 1689; July 15, 2001, review of Biggie and the Quincy Ghost, p. 980; September 15, 2002, review of Biggie and the Devil Diet, p. 1352; December 15, 2002, review of Restored to Death, p. 1804.
Library Journal, May 1, 1996, p. 136; November 1, 1998, Rex E. Klett, review of Biggie and the Fricasseed Fat Man, p. 129; November 1, 1999, Rex E. Klett, review of Biggie and the Meddlesome Mailman, p. 128; February 1, 2003, Rex E. Klett, review of Restored to Death, p. 121.
People Weekly, May 27, 1996, p. 38.
Publishers Weekly, April 29, 1996, p. 55; April 14, 1997, p. 60; October 5, 1998, review of Biggie and the Fricasseed Fat Man, p. 84; August 20, 2001, review of Biggie and the Quincy Ghost, p. 62; October 14, 2002, review of Biggie and the Devil Diet, p. 67; February 10, 2003, review of Restored to Death, p. 166.
Austin Chronicle Books, http://www.austinchronicle.com/ (October 12, 2001), Don Webb, review of Biggie and the Quincy Ghost.
Painted Rock, http://www.paintedrock.com/ (December 8, 1997).