Wednesday 9 March 2016

Book Review: You Can't Get Blood Out of Shag Carpet by Juliette Harper

Last Updated: 1 June 2021

You Can't Get Blood Out of Shag Carpet by Juliette Harper book cover

AD* | Wanda Jean Milton discovers her husband, local exterminator Hilton Milton, dead on her new shag carpet with an Old Hickory carving knife sticking out of his chest. Beside herself over how she’ll remove the stain, and grief-stricken over Hilton’s demise, Wanda Jean finds herself the prime suspect in the case.

But she is also a member of “the” local Study Club, a bastion of independent Texas feminism 1960s style. Club President Clara Wyler has no intention of allowing a member to be a murder suspect during her administration. Aided by her younger sister and County Clerk, Mae Ella Gormley; Sugar Watson, the proprietress of Sugar’s Style and Spray; and Wilma Schneider, Army MASH veteran and local RN, the Club women set out to clear Wanda Jean’s name — never guessing the local dirt they’ll uncover in the process.

You Can't Get Blood is the second book I've read by Juliette Harper. The first was the introduction to the Lockwood Legacy series, Langston's Daughters, and you can find my review of that here.

You Can't Get Blood Out of Shag Carpet (or YCGB, as I shall be referring to it from now on) aside from undoubtedly trying to compete for the position of 'longest book title ever' is also the first book in the Study Club Mystery series.

Rural Texas

It is set in a small, rural (slightly backwards) Texas ranch town in the middle of nowhere. By a happy coincidence, the exact same small, rural, Texas ranch town that features in the Lockwood Legacy series. The difference is, the Study Club Mystery series is set several decades before the events of the Lockwood Legacy, meaning we get to see the town and how it changes over time, which I think is a really nice touch.

However, I couldn't quite get a firm hold on the genre of this book. YCGB is part homespun detective novel, part historical (reading some of the character's views on things which seem so commonplace nowadays was particularly entertaining) and part humour, all encased in a shell of chick-lit fiction. That made it a bit confusing to start off with, but it didn't take long to get into the story and just enjoy it for what it is.

Turning the tables on gender equality

The Study Club ladies were all interesting, individual characters. Despite coming from a time when women were very much seen as below men in society, these women are feisty, independent ladies who aren't afraid to stick up for one of their own. And I appreciate that. In a turning of the tables, most of the men in this book are portrayed as either stupid, incapable or with something to hide - it's implied that all the hard work is done by the women of the town behind the scenes, and the men aren't trusted with anything because they aren't clever enough to figure things out for themselves.

I did find some of the situations too unbelievable to be true (how many big secrets can one average Joe realistically have?) but coupled with the humour it was easy to take it with a pinch of salt. I mean think about it, when the dead guy's name is Hilton Milton, that kind of sets the precedent for the rest of the book.

YCGB is ultimately a quick, light-hearted read, but sadly I fear it's not one that will stick around in my memory for long.

Rating: 2 stars

You Can't Get Blood Out of Shag Carpet is available to buy now.

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* I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review 

Have you read any of the Study Club Mystery series? Let me know in the comments below!

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