Good writing is like the old joke about the musician wanting to get to Carnegie Hall.

In the joke, a young musician hails a cab in New York. As he gets in, he says to the cabby “what’s the quickest way to Carnegie Hall?”

The cabbie, being a wise old sage, answers “practice, practice, practice.”

Donis Casey must have encountered a few New York cabbies lately, because her second Alafair Tucker mystery, “Hornswaggled,” contains much better writing than her first novel, “The Old Buzzard Had It Coming.”

It must be the result of practice.

Casey has grown and her writing shows it.

Instead of the lame, overused Okie clichés which haunted her first book, “Hornswaggled” gives us a deeper, richer image of her characters.

Her dialogue is much more believeable and the characters much more developed.

Alafair Tucker is the Miss Marple of her time — it’s not that mysteries and problems seek her out, but instead, it’s that she uses her skill and knowledge to solve problems which surround her.

In short, Tucker takes a sleuth’s approach to an every day issue.

And that makes Casey’s work unique.

In “Hornswaggled,” Alafair isn’t too sure the man her daughter Alice has the hots for is the right man for her — of course, every mom says this.

The difference, is Alafair isn’t sure this guy should even be on the streets. Did he kill his first wife, Louise? Or did he have some involvement in Louise’s death?

And what about the strange kid that makes a brief, ghost-like appearence in the first few chapters?

Alafair goes from being a nosey mother to detective simply because she’s concerned about her beautiful, headstrong daughter.

The book is set in early 20th century in Oklahoma, and Casey has a good grasp of pre-Dustbowl Oklahoma.

She easily takes readers back in time and wraps that simple era around her tale: Women — wanting more — began to reexamine their role in society and Casey’s two main characters, Alice and Alafair, manifest the differences.

Alice wants more than a farm.

In fact, Alice wants a rich, handsome man with a car, home and all that money can buy. Only the handsome man may be a killer.

Alafair, on the other hand, is content to be a mom, wife and, in a strage way, part time detective.

It’s fun to watch Alafair and the rest of Casey’s characters work their way through the mystery surrounding the handsome, but questionable man.

And while the ending is a little more complicated than necessary, “Hornswaggled” is a well-written, fun read.

It’s also an example of a writer who has learned from her experience.

I’m looking forward to Casey’s next work. If her writing and plot structure continue to improve at this rate, she will, indeed, make it to Carnegie Hall.

Published by Poison Pen Press, “Hornswaggled” is available at most local bookstores and online at

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