REVIEWS FROM SALLY POWERS
POSTED FEBRUARY 28, 2013
Parnell Hall uses the ripe old chestnut beloved of little theaters everywhere, "Arsenic And Old Lace", as the basis for Cora Felton's latest escapade into crime solving. The Puzzle Lady may not be able to create or solve crosswords (niece Sherry handles that) but she's a dab hand at murder detection - and, go figure, at solving Soduko puzzles.
First there's the dead tourist in the parlor of the elderly Guilford sisters, who run a genteel bed-and-breakfast. Their nephew arrives on the scene soon after it's discovered that the dead man has no identification, the sisters have no idea who he is - and he was murdered. It will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the movie that there is a window seat in the parlor - and that, eventually, a body is found there.
This is a romp from page one. The regulars (Sherry, husband Aaron the newspaper reporter, sexy lawyer Becky Baldwin, the ever irascible Chief Harper and TV newshound Rick Reed) all play their parts to perfection. The murder(s) aren't neglected and neither is Cora's love life! RECOMMENDED.
- Sally Powers
"In British idiom, "gone west" means died or disappeared." - Carola Dunn
It was a relief to see that GONE WEST didn't mean that Daisy Dalrymple, wife of Chief Inspector Alex Fletcher of New Scotland Yard, was off to the American Wild West. Instead, Daisy has been inveigled by an acquaintance from her school days, Sybil Sutherby, to visit her in the wilds of Derbyshire. Sybil is secretary to a middling successful author, Humphrey Birtwhistle, writing American westerns as Eli Hawke. Her story of "something wicked this way comes", while lacking in evidence, is curious enough to intrigue Daisy.
Arriving at Eyrie Farm, Daisy discovers a country manse with few amenities, a dysfunctional familial unit and an "atmosphere" that lends credence to Sybil's perturbations. The family includes Humphrey, his brother and sister, who have resented him for thirty years, his wife, Ruby, an American, their son Simon, a "cousin", Myra, and her two swains, Neil and Walter. When Humphrey dies and his doctor, Roger Knox, refuses to sign the death certificate without a second opinion - and calling in the police - all hell breaks loose. Unfortunately, on a couple of levels, Roger, who is in love with Sybil, is aware of Daisy's illustrious husband and invokes the Scotland Yard card when calling in the police.
Carola Dunn's series featuring Daisy Dalrymple is always a treat. Daisy is a woman embracing the expanded opportunities for her sex while dealing with those whose idea of women's place is out of date for the late 1920s. RECOMMENDED.
- Sally Powers
In 1806 England, Dido Kent's position in life is not so different from other spinsters of her generation. At thirty-six, Dido is past marrying age and recent financial set-backs to her family find her in the cold and drafty attic room of the vicarage of her brother Francis and his carping and pious wife, Margaret.
Fortunately Dido has her sister Eliza, to whom she writes copious letters setting forth her trials and her triumphs. Eliza is the only one who knows that Dido's single state is of her own choosing. Mr. William Lomax had asked for her hand in marriage, but Dido feels that her independent spirit and tendency to speak her mind would lead to disputes and a very unhappy married life. After all, Regency-era husbands expect their wives to accord with their values and way of thinking in all things.
A perfect example is Dido's current investigation, which has been brought to her by no less an august personage that the local lady of the manor, Mrs. Harman-Foote. Upon draining an ornamental pool on the manor property the remains of a body have been discovered and subsequently identified as Miss Elinor Fenn, Mrs. Harman-Foote's governess who disappeared fifteen years earlier. The inquest has returned a verdict of death by her own hand and the local parson, not Francis, has decreed that she cannot be buried within church grounds. Dido soon discovers that said parson is not an uninterested party in the matter. Mrs. Harman-Foote wants Dido to prove murder, thus allowing Miss Fenn a proper burial.
Dido's investigation reaches much farther afield than anticipated and secrets that some would wish to remain hidden are soon brought to her attention. The convoluted story of Elinor Fenn is fascinating. There are villains, overwrought females, a couple of villainous men practically twirling their non-existent mustaches, and even Mr. Lomax arrives on the scene. Dido acquits herself to her own satisfaction, if not that of Mr. Lomax. There is hope, but you will have to read that for yourself.
A charming historical. RECOMMENDED.
- Sally Powers