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by Dorothy Cannell
Viking Press, June 2002
248 pages
ISBN: 0670030600

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

When interior decorator Ellie Haskell's husband Ben returns from a book signing tour he wants his old comfortable furniture and typewriter back instead of the new fancy computer and accessories he finds. Luckily, Mrs. Malloy, her daily, calls and asks her to bring a lipstick she left the last time she cleaned the Haskell's house. Roxie is moonlighting as local PI "Milk" Jugg's Effie. Roxie and Ellie sit in the office drinking Jugg's bourbon, when, hours late, Lady Krumley enters.

Many years before, Lady Krumley had fired a parlor maid, Flossie, whom she had suspected of stealing a brooch, a family heirloom. Flossie, several months pregnant, left, had her baby and died in a grotty bed sitter. Now, as in an old Ealing comedy, elderly members of the Krumley family are dying in strange ways. The latest fell down a well while searching for his small dog. Lady Krumley thinks the curse will be lifted from Moultty Towers if she finds Flossie's daughter, Ernestine.

Since Jugg is on holiday, Ellie allows Mrs. Malloy to talk her into playing detective and trying to solve the mystery, for the large cheque Lady Krumley is offering. They stumble around through the clues and eventually do figure out what happened, more in the vein of Alec Guinness than Humphrey Bogart.

Cannell's characters are drawn very broadly. The secondary characters are also very strange, including Ellie's family and the various denizens of Moultty Towers. If you enjoy the Miss Marple sort of puzzle AND characters as ditzy as Stephanie Plum, then you will enjoy this tale.

Reviewed by Barbara Franchi, February 2003

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