RogerBW's Blog

Something the Cat Dragged In, Charlotte MacLeod 08 December 2017

1983 cosy American detective fiction; fourth of MacLeod's novels of Professor Peter Shandy, set at an agricultural college in Massachussetts. Retired professor Herbert Ungley wouldn't want to be caught dead without his toupee, but that's just what's happened.

I've had this sitting part-finished for over a year; it just didn't grab me. Earlier entries in this series have done a good job of having interesting minor characters, sometimes at the expense of plot; this one swings the other way, and spends so much time on setting up suspicions and not giving clues about the suspects that it doesn't develop them as distinctive people.

At the same time the plot isn't anything much; there are a few people with motives, but it's fairly clear where blame should fall. Shandy makes detailed accusations seemingly out of nowhere, speculating rather beyond what few facts we've been given, and is always right. In retrospect, the villainous actions don't even make any sense in terms of what the villain wanted to achieve.

Maybe if I'd read this one faster, or sooner after the previous Shandy, I'd have enjoyed it more; I think one has to go with the flow and accept the outward trappings of a detective story without poking too deeply, and instead wallowing in the people, particularly the series regulars. Ottermole the police chief gets a particularly good showing here.

Followed by The Curse of the Giant Hogweed.

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