RogerBW's Blog

The Grub-and-Stakers Pinch a Poke, Charlotte MacLeod 08 September 2018

1988, cosy American detective fiction; third of MacLeod's novels (as "Alisa Craig") of Dittany Henbit and the Lobelia Falls Grub-and-Stakers Gardening & Roving Club. There's a collection of antique theatrical memorabilia looking for a new home, and its owner sets a contest: whoever writes and produces the best new play, on a vaguely Canadian subject, will get it for their town. The Club gets together a two-act drama based on The Shooting of Dan McGrew, but complications follow.

Though there's no murder, which seems rather an omission: there's a setup for it, not unlike that in Enter a Murderer, but the act itself is avoided more or less by chance, and so are later attempts. Who swapped the cartridges, and why has Dittany's Aunt Arethusa collected so many male admirers? Only one of these questions will be answered.

It's all enjoyable, but very slight, and it ends up being much more about the comedic people (both series regulars and guest stars) than about the mystery – although, unlike some of MacLeod's books, there is at least a mystery for the reader to solve in this one, with clues to be interpreted, rather than background criminality and a rabbit-out-of-the-hat solution.

It's all quite wordy even though the book is short, and bits of comedy with a variety of deadly animals never raise the story above the category of time-filler. The characters are enjoyable, but not terribly distinct from MacLeod's other characters from other series.

Absolutely not a book to start the series with; the only real virtue is a bit more about characters one is presumed already to favour. I didn't dislike it, but it's awfully hard to find anything positive to say about it. Followed by The Grub-and-Stakers Spin a Yarn.

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Previous in series: The Grub-and-Stakers Quilt a Bee | Series: Dittany Henbit Monk | Next in series: The Grub-and-Stakers Spin a Yarn

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