Wednesday, November 18, 2009
The book that started it all for Edgar Award winner Sharyn McCrumb's widely acclaimed series featuring amateur sleuth Elizabeth MacPherson.
When delicate Eileen Chandler is set to marry, her family fears the man is a fortune hunter. Thank goodness, Eileen's cousin Elizabeth MacPherson comes early for support. Unfortunately, Elizabeth also has some detecting to do, as a dead body is found, and none of the wedding party is above suspicion....
This book has been on my TBR pile forever, so I finally got around to reading it. I wish I could say it was worth the wait, but it just didn't really bowl me over. I'd heard it was witty and well done and I just don't see what all the fuss was about. Lots of quirky, offbeat characters, but I found none of them compelling, and I didn't even click with Elizabeth MacPherson who is the main character and the start of this acclaimed series that left me cold. One of the reasons why I read this book was that the later books take Elizabeth to Scotland from Southern Georgia, where this book takes place. I liked the idea of Scotland (of course), but I don't think I'm going to bother continuing with this series afterall.
It's not that it was bad, but it didn't keep me interested. Even though the many different oddball relatives and side characters were "different," the murder mystery itself made me curious, but I wasn't burning to find out who did it. The many different characters were distracting from the murder itself and I just wanted to get this short book (240 pages) over with.
The basic plot is Elizabeth has just graduated from college and has to be a bridesmaid in her cousin Eileen's upcoming wedding. She stays with Eileen's dysfunctional though well to do family for at least a week before the wedding. An awkward business, since Eileen hasn't seen any of them in years. Eileen is a mystery in of itself, institutionalized the previous year, we're not sure if she's completely stable or not. All her other cousins are strange to say the least, but some had their bright spots. I liked the Prince Ludwig nut, Alban, the best. He built his own Disney-like castle (aptly named Albania by his witty and jaded cousin, Geoffrey). The way he and Elizabeth meet is one of the best moments in the book. In fact, you get the impression there might be something romantic there, but they're first cousins, so that rules that one out. This is a contemporary novel afterall. Elizabeth barely knows any of her cousins, so we get to meet them all one by one, as well as the fiance and a visiting psychiatrist. All with their own little peculiararities.
As the week unfolds, Eileen, the bride to be, is found dead in an old skiff in the lake on the family property (hence the reference to Sick of Shadows and the Lady of Shallott - again, I just read a book with this same theme! What a coincidence!)
Who murdered Eileen? Was it one of her siblings or some other relative? Maybe it was the fiance, who we find out didn't even really want to marry her - except that Eileen would come into $200,000 by being the first of the cousins to get married thanks to an eccentric great aunt who made this proviso in her will. Because of this, any one of the many siblings or cousins could have been the murderer to get the money.
Over the course of the investigation we also get to meet the county sheriff, who, predicatably, is smarter than he sounds and likes to keep up the charade of being just a good ol' boy. In addition, we get to know his sidekick Clay, and some family secrets are revealed to further the plot and throw the reader some red herrings.
I won't reveal who the murderer is, but the whole wind up was just kind of ... dumb. I shook my head and thought - this is it? It was a cute little mystery, but light. It didn't have any meat on it for me, just lots of little sideline stories of weird characters and would be murderers. Maybe I'm just not a big enough mystery lover to have really appreciated this, though I like historical mysteries. I think I have a ways to go to get into these types of books.
Hey, at least I read it, and I knocked off another book from my TBR Challenge! That's the important thing!