RogerBW's Blog

A Dose of Death, Gin Jones 12 September 2019

2014 mystery, first in the series about Helen Binney, ex-wife of the Governor of Massachussetts and now living in a small town and suffering from lupus erythematosus. Helen's fussy nieces insist on getting her daily visits from an overbearing nurse, who later turns up beaten to death outside Helen's house.

But, as is drilled into us repeatedly, nobody pays attention to what a silly old woman has to say, so when Helen decides that this isn't, as the police assume, an escalation by the mysterious Remote Control Burglar (who steals only remote controls and batteries), nobody listens to her. (To be fair, she has no evidence, just a feeling that the psychology doesn't match up.)

She also identifies said Burglar (with a flash of insight rather than deduction), and learns the basics of crochet.

But it's all dreary. There's no life in these people. The police are careless idiots; the town reporter is a pushy idiot (and nobody seems to think that "governor's ex-wife's nurse murdered" is a story). Helen suffers from lupus but can readily climb out of a window, and there's no mention of what's usually the most important thing in lupus management, the need to avoid sunlight. There's too much time spent establishing hooks for future stories (the "governor's ex-wife" thing is mentioned repeatedly but never seems to affect the plot) and not enough on establishing the people, whether they're the one-shot villains or the planned recurring characters.

This isn't even an offensively bad book (I got one smile from the bit where we're told Helen is completely at home with computers, but two paragraphs later she prints out fifty newspaper reports which she's planning to read); it's just bland and has nothing to say.

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