RogerBW's Blog

The Grub-and-Stakers Move a Mountain, Charlotte MacLeod 11 September 2015

1981, cosy American detective fiction; first 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 local villain has a plan to build houses on a wilderness area. But one of his patsies ends up shot.

Actually the murder plot is nearly coincidental. The book is mostly a celebration of the consciously kooky characters in the town (such as the historical romantic novelist whose speech is larded with "stap me" and "zounds", the wheatgerm-and-raw-parsnip health faddist, and the dog "generally supposed to be part beagle, part bloodhound, part black bear and the rest a mystery although speculation ranged everywhere from badger to brontosaurus"). Although every character has his or (more usually) her quirkiness, they're all treated with reasonable respect, even the villains. The main action deals with an attempt to pack the vote on the Development Commission, and the Gardening and Roving Club's efforts to prevent it. (And to organise a golden wedding anniversary party.) But the murder does eventually get solved, and that plays by the rules.

As with most of MacLeod's books I've read so far, this is also a van Dine violation: one of the businesses at hand is most definitely to bring a lovelorn couple to the hymeneal altar. It's rather less straightforward than the others in that there are rivals for Dittany's affections, though the outcome is never in serious doubt.

It's another very light-weight book, and I find I'm reading MacLeod mostly as a change of pace and palate-cleanser after long series or more intense books. Competently written, and sufficiently inspired to be thoroughly enjoyable without either rising or trying to rise to great heights of immortality.- Followed by The Grub-and-Stakers Quilt a Bee.

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