RogerBW's Blog

The Plain Old Man, Charlotte MacLeod 20 May 2018

1985 cozy American detective fiction; sixth of MacLeod's novels of Boston Brahmin Sarah Kelling and art investigator Max Bittersohn. Sarah's aunt is putting on her annual Gilbert and Sullivan show, but it will be made harder by theft… and perhaps murder.

The last book had rather more Max than Sarah; this one has much more Sarah than Max, with the latter only appearing during the wrapping-up. Again, the narrative suffers when they're kept apart, and thus not allowed to do their double-act of detection.

Like The Grub-and-Stakers Quilt a Bee, the last MacLeod I read, there's really not much puzzle-solving to do here; we get the trappings of a detective story, and a very few clues, but mostly the narrative consists of Sarah's internal monologue, as she carries on being the general dogsbody for the production (one night only!) while trying to find out what's going on with a missing painting and doing some minor investigation of a suspicious death. One might say from this narrative "ah, I think it's probably X" but there's certainly no definitive set of clues that would eliminate everyone else.

By inheritance or pillage, Mabel had acquired a great deal of furniture. Unlike Emma, Mabel did not keep the overflow in her cellar. She preferred, as she often said, to enjoy her treasures. What enjoyment Mabel derived from three hatstands with hangers made of real deer hooves, three worsted-worked love seats, and a large bronze statue of Atlas carrying an illuminated globe on his shoulders and having his private parts discreetly dealt with by means of a barometer set into his lower abdomen was a mystery not even Max Bittersohn would have cared to tackle. And that was just the foyer.

The really effective thing here is the portrayal of Aunt Emma, who's been the driving force of the performing society for years, but who has the grace to know when it's time to retire from singing and directing. Even if she still knows how to scare up a replacement Notary (for The Sorcerer) at short notice:

"By the way, Frederick Kelling, I hope you haven't forgotten who got you off the hook that time you got drunk on bathtub gin and wound up engaged to Cousin Mabel."

"For God's sake, Emma! That was in June of 1929."

"It was 1928. And the statute of limitations hasn't run out as far as I'm concerned. Frederick, you owe me."

Apart from her it's another palate-cleanser: nothing objectionable, but also nothing startling or unexpected (though it's shot through with phrases from Gilbert and Sullivan, which works pretty well). Followed by The Recycled Citizen.

[Buy this at Amazon] and help support the blog. ["As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases."]

Previous in series: The Convivial Codfish | Series: Sarah Kelling and Max Bittersohn | Next in series: The Recycled Citizen

Comments on this post are now closed. If you have particular grounds for adding a late comment, comment on a more recent post quoting the URL of this one.

Tags 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s 3d printing action advent of code aeronautics aikakirja anecdote animation anime army astronomy audio audio tech aviation base commerce battletech beer boardgaming book of the week bookmonth chain of command children chris chronicle church of no redeeming virtues cold war comedy computing contemporary cornish smuggler cosmic encounter coup covid-19 crime crystal cthulhu eternal cycling dead of winter doctor who documentary drama driving drone ecchi economics en garde espionage essen 2015 essen 2016 essen 2017 essen 2018 essen 2019 essen 2022 essen 2023 existential risk falklands war fandom fanfic fantasy feminism film firefly first world war flash point flight simulation food garmin drive gazebo genesys geocaching geodata gin gkp gurps gurps 101 gus harpoon historical history horror hugo 2014 hugo 2015 hugo 2016 hugo 2017 hugo 2018 hugo 2019 hugo 2020 hugo 2021 hugo 2022 hugo 2023 hugo 2024 hugo-nebula reread in brief avoid instrumented life javascript julian simpson julie enfield kickstarter kotlin learn to play leaving earth linux liquor lovecraftiana lua mecha men with beards mpd museum music mystery naval noir non-fiction one for the brow opera parody paul temple perl perl weekly challenge photography podcast politics postscript powers prediction privacy project woolsack pyracantha python quantum rail raku ranting raspberry pi reading reading boardgames social real life restaurant reviews romance rpg a day rpgs ruby rust scala science fiction scythe second world war security shipwreck simutrans smartphone south atlantic war squaddies stationery steampunk stuarts suburbia superheroes suspense television the resistance the weekly challenge thirsty meeples thriller tin soldier torg toys trailers travel type 26 type 31 type 45 vietnam war war wargaming weather wives and sweethearts writing about writing x-wing young adult
Special All book reviews, All film reviews
Produced by aikakirja v0.1