RogerBW's Blog

A Dismal Thing to Do, Charlotte MacLeod 02 July 2018

1986, cosy American detective fiction; third of MacLeod's novels (as "Alisa Craig") of Madoc and Janet Rhys. After Janet is nearly killed while trying to give assistance at a road accident, Madoc is brought in at the other end of the case to track down stolen military equipment.

This isn't really a "mystery" as such; apart from one obvious false lead, quickly dropped, it's always quite clear who's involved in the Fell Doings. The only real question is just what those fell doings might be.

This is very much the sort of story MacLeod was writing at this point in her career: there are lots of Wacky Locals (the setting is back in Janet's home town, after the isolation of Murder Goes Mumming), and hero and heroine are all over each other at the slightest opportunity because this is Funny. After a strong start, Janet's sadly sidelined from the actual investigation, which is mostly straightforward police procedural.

The characters, Wacky or otherwise, are the prize here; even the ones would could easily be played as stereotypes have some degree of subtlety to them. There's also some surprisingly atmospheric searching of a snow-bound crime scene.

As usual with MacLeod this is a palate-cleanser rather than anything to be taken as serious reading. Followed by Trouble in the Brasses.

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