RogerBW's Blog

The Grub-and-Stakers Quilt a Bee, Charlotte MacLeod 08 May 2018

1985, cosy American detective fiction; second of MacLeod's novels (as "Alisa Craig") of Dittany Henbit and the Lobelia Falls Grub-and-Stakers Gardening & Roving Club. In a small town in Ontario, the new museum (of early-settlement-era tat) needs a curator. Unfortunately, the first one seems to have fallen to his death.

There's not a great deal to it, though I do admire MacLeod for using the phrase "his precipitous demise" correctly (Katherine Kurtz's infamous use of "his rather precipitous marriage" wouldn't be published until the next year). The clues are extremely thin on the ground, and the whole thing only holds together because it's a detective story and therefore the villain must be one of the characters we've been introduced to.

"I refuse to accept any suggestion that might lead to our having Evangeline Fairfield dangling albatrossly around our necks for the rest of her life. Damme, I'll pension her off myself, if I have to. I'm sure you realize that last remark was uttered in the heat of the moment and not to be taken literally," Arethusa added hastily. "Surely there's a comfortable rest home somewhere for relicts of deceased curators."

There's less conscious kookiness than last time, and a smaller cast, which does no harm except to leave the book feeling rather slight. Yes, newly-married Dittany wants to snuggle with her husband, and said husband's aunt objects; but what might with a lighter hand have been amusing wears a bit then after multiple repetitions.

There's a MacGuffin and a hidden map and so on, and it's all quite fun and unobjectionable, but I continue to see these books as palate-cleansers more than serious mystery novels. Followed by The Grub-and-Stakers Pinch a Poke.

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