Monday, February 07, 2011

Order oysters and cancel the ersters

On a friend-of-a-friend's recommendation (in a Facebook status comment, no less) I read Amy Patricia Meade's Million Dollar Baby. Since I finished my now-favorite historical mystery series ever, I've been looking for another one. Only requirement: plucky female protagonist.

The first of three Marjorie McClelland books, Million Dollar Baby takes place in a sleepy Connecticut town during the Depression. The heroine herself is a mystery writer, and naturally stumbles upon a cold case. To help her solve it is a fabulously wealthy Englishman who has just bought a mansion in town and a dashing police detective (foreshadowing the triangular drama was not difficult).

The charm of the book is that it plays out like a film straight from the era in which it takes place. In fact, I had visions of Top Hat and Bright Eyes in my head while reading the whole thing. At various points, I found myself identifying several potential anachronisms (mainly speech patterns and slang). But I wanted to finish the story, so I didn't double-check. And in the end, none of them mattered to the story anyway.

Though it wasn't a gripping, suspenseful page-turner, I still couldn't put it down. Maybe it was the often comical dialog between two of the main characters, but I think most of it was that the background stories of the townspeople was so real and tragic. Meade did a good job of painting a picture of a town with colorful, caring, or tragic characters during some of the worst economic times in history. The book is presented as a light-hearted period caper, but there are darker, pathos-ridden elements brimming under the surface. I liked that.

And of course, it all takes place between the Wars, so I'm partial to it anyway (see below).

Books 2 and 3 are in queue at the library.

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