Curtains for Miss Plym
A Mary McGill Mystery #2
Severn House, April 2016
From the publisher—
Preparations for Santa Louisa’s annual spring rummage sale are thrown into chaos when organizer Mary McGill and her devoted cocker spaniel Millie come across a dead body on the premises. Still wearing her pink nightdress and slippers, what on earth was Miss Emilie Plym doing in a locked church hall in the dead of night? And who on earth would want to harm a sweet-natured but confused elderly lady who wouldn’t hurt a fly?
As Mary questions the victim’s nearest and dearest, she discovers that not everyone had Miss Plym’s best interests at heart, and that at least one of those who should have been caring for her is hiding a shocking secret.
Readers of cozy mysteries have varying tastes and expectations, which should come as no surprise because the term “cozy” can cover quite a wide spectrum. For me, a good cozy features an intelligent sleuth who thinks her or his way through to the solution of a crime rather than falling into the clues accidentally. She is too smart to put herself in dangerous situations—those dangerous situations do exist but she’s not necessarily in them because she’s snooping—and she has legitimate reasons for being involved in an investigation rather than just being nosy or thinking she can do the job better than the local cops (unless, of course, she really can and there are some good cozies like that). Another element that appeals to me is a setting in which the reader is not expected to believe that the amateur sleuth knows every single person in town no matter how small it might be.
I found all of that in the first book in this series, Purebred Dead, and I’m very happy to say that Kathleen Delaney has done it again with Curtains for Miss Plym. Mary McGill has reason to be at the church hall very early one morning but she certainly didn’t anticipate finding any dead body, much less that of a sweet, elderly woman in her nightclothes. What on earth could provoke someone to kill Miss Emilie?
Mary becomes even more involved when the chief of police, Dan Dunham, asks her and his wife, Ellen, to go to the Plym residence to wait with the family and household help until he can leave the crime scene. Why does he ask Mary to do this? As it happens, she is Ellen’s aunt and Dan is well aware that she’s a calming presence and can be trusted to unobtrusively look for signs of odd behavior. As it turns out, there are some questionable people in Miss Emilie’s life including family members but is it possible any of them could wish her harm or could it be some one else in town? And why was she taking such large withdrawals from her trust fund?
Plenty of clues along the way keep the investigation moving along and, while the end result is not particularly surprising, that doesn’t really matter. The real strength of this series is the characters, primary and secondary, and most of them come to feel like old friends, people you don’t mind spending time with. Don’t get me wrong, though—they’re not all squeaky clean and living on the side of the angels and for that we can be very glad. No one wants to be surrounded by a town full of goody two shoes, do we?
There are quiet little touches that added to my understanding of the characters as well as my overall enjoyment of the story, things like Miss Emilie’s attachment to Willis, a stuffed dog, and the way so many people in town had taken it upon themselves to get her home when she wandered. I also really appreciated the passages in which Mary talks through her thinking process with her dog, Millie. No, Millie does not help solve the crime in any way but it’s very natural for any pet owner, especially one who lives only with the pet, to talk to the animal without expecting the animal to talk back. It’s just a good way to hash things out before coming to conclusions and those talks with Millie eventually bear fruit. It should also be noted that Millie has an important role to play beyond being a sounding board.
Now, are there things about Mary or the story that are not high on my list? Yes, mostly the fact that Mary is just a little too, well, good. The woman is practically a saint and that can get just a teensy bit old but, when you get right down to it, I can’t help liking Mary a lot 😉 I hope she and Millie and the whole town of Santa Louisa will be around for a long time.
Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2016.