Monday, October 18, 2010

Lay On, Mac Duff!

I know I said in my review of The Chocolate Cobweb, that I wouldn't be all that eager to grab another Charlotte Armstrong any time soon. But Lay On, Mac Duff! has been on my TBR (to be found) list for a very long time and I was able to get my hands on it this weekend. That turned out to be a very good thing. Now I'm hoping that maybe the chocolate book was a fluke--or perhaps Armstrong was just trying out some really weird dialogue experiments.

Lay On, Mac Duff! tells the story of newly orphaned Bessie Gibbon who goes to live with her wealthy uncle and his much younger wife. On her very first night, she witnesses a very odd Parcheesi game between her uncle and three "friends." All four men play with if their lives depend on the outcome! As well it may. Later that same night one of the men is found shot to death with a red playing piece on his body Is it possible that Bessie's uncle is the murderer? Or is it one of the other men? Or even Aunt Lina, the pretty young wife?

Armstrong's debut novel is a fun, light, cozy little murder. We have our very small set of suspects...a set that keeps getting smaller as the body count rises. It has everything one might want...a large house full of creepy, midnight shenanigans, faithful servants, a love interest for Bessie...and, for me, an amateur detective who used to be a history professor. (I love an academic twist to my mysteries!) Armstrong weaves a very strong tale of murder...that was fun even if I did spot the murderer early on. The characters are finely drawn and the atmosphere is just right. Hopefully, her other novels are more like this and less like the chocolate let-down. Three and a half stars out of five.

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