Decked with Folly
Berkley, Nov 2009, $14.00
It is the Christmas season and the Pennyfoot Spa is having its usual holiday celebration. Manager Cecily Sinclair Baxter prays they get through the Yuletide period without a murder as seems to be the tradition (see SHROUDS OF HOLLY, SLAY BELLS and NO CLUE AT THE INN – not a safe place for the holidays). Alas the homicidal jinx remains intact as a drunken man is found dead in the pond; they discover he is Ian Rossiter who used to work there and once was bigamously married to still-employed head maid Gertie. They also had a fight on the hotel’s grounds in which she attacked him with a knife.
The local constable Northcott believes Gertie killed her former spouse, but Cecily thinks differently; the cops do not arrest her head maid, but remand her into her employer’s custody. The Pennyfoot repairman saves Gertie’s life twice, which has Cecily pondering the connection to Ian’s death beyond the obvious. When Ian’s current wife Gloria arrives looking for him only to learn he is dead, she goes hysterical; Cecily puts her in a guest room. Meanwhile someone watches the activity waiting for the opening to make a move while Cecily wonders what had Ian done to bring such misfortune to him and his family.
There are numerous suspects besides the ex wife whose motive is the most obvious as Ian wants to see his twins, but others also have powerful reasons to kill the rogue. Cecily is more of a modern woman than an early twentieth cnturty female as she refuses to let her husband Baxter or any male dictate how she is to behave especially when he pleads with her to stay out of the murder investigation. The story line has the “Upstairs, Downstairs” feel that enhances the whoudnit as there is a wide schism between the classes as World War I had not started leveling the playing field yet. Readers will enjoy the latest Pennyfoot holiday mystery as a terrific historical amateur sleuth.