Picks and Pans Review: Hearse of a Different Color

updated 03/12/2001 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/12/2001 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Tim Cockey

Page-turner of the week

Like your mysteries in the classic mold—tough-skinned but secretly tender sleuth, easy-on-the-eyes dame, plenty of snappy banter? If so, jump aboard for a most entertaining ride with amateur gumshoe Hitchcock Sewell.

Hitch, a wisecracking Baltimore undertaker who made an appealing debut in The Hearse You Came In On (now out in paperback), is drop-dead handsome, with both an incurable weakness for the ladies and an insatiable curiosity about how certain clients came to be in need of his services.

So Hitch is doubly interested in the case of Helen Waggoner, a murdered beauty whose body shows up on the steps of Sewell & Sons, Hitch's place of business, during a blizzard. Initially it's Hitch's girlfriend, a TV meteorologist who needs a scoop to get a promotion, who urges him to start snooping. But he doesn't need much prompting after he meets the victim's equally gorgeous but very much alive sister Vickie.

As Hitch hunts for Helen's killer, the pungent Baltimore atmosphere and rogues' gallery of oddballs recall the late great TV series Homicide-not a bad case of deja vu at all. (Hyperion, $23.95)

Bottom Line: An undertaker-detective you'll really dig

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