Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Accent on Murder: Review

I decided to finish up my 2012 reading with a slam-dunk book.  Even though I started Accent on Murder by Frances & Richard Lockridge late on December 30, I knew how quickly their books go so I had no worries about finishing before the New Year came bursting in.  Then I got sick with something that includes an "exploding" headache which made reading just a bit of a challenge.  BUT with a little help from my friendly cold medicine, I managed to sneak it in by 11 pm last night and promptly went to sleep.  So....this is actually the last review of 2012.

Accent on Murder falls into one of my favorite mystery sub-genres: the academic mystery.  Academic according to my rather loose definition--a mystery involving a scholar, teacher, professor,university librarian, etc. (as amateur detective, villain, victim or just very prominent character) OR set at a school, university, library, etc.  This Lockridge offering features one of their series detectives, Captain Heimrich of the New York State Police, but it also features Walter Brinkley, emeritus professor of English whose hobby is the distinction of pronunciation within the United States.  Dr. Brinkley is rather a dear little man--described by his younger neighbors as a "woolly lamb"--a pink, round little man who seems to bounce wherever he goes. The book is worth the read just for the final scenes where he rushes off in a concussed state to take care of "a thing of vital importance which he should have done hours ago."  But I get ahead of myself.

When Dr. Brinkley's neighbor Paul Craig comes back to Westchester County with his new bride, the good doctor decides to give a cocktail party to welcome them home.  He has no idea that his sociable gesture will mix the ingredients for a rather nasty series of murders as well as cocktails.  Among his guests is Caroline Wilkins, former Navy "brat" and current wife of an often absent naval officer.  A naval officer who arrives in time for this particular party. Also present are her lovely young cousin, the Misses Monroe and other long-time residents of Westchester County like Mrs. Belsen, the Sands, the Thayers and the like.  And Captain Heimrich.  

Later that week, Caroline is dead--shot while sun-bathing in a secluded place--although not quite so secluded as she and her cousin thought.  Only a few days earlier Dorcas, her cousin, had an elderly man rant at her about the sinful nature of her au naturel sun-worshipping. Dorcas blames herself for not remembering to warn Caroline about the addled voyeur.  But Heimrich is not convinced that the elderly man is the culprit. He and Lieutenant Forniss begin searching in Caroline's past and discover a former husband who just happens to be in the area and who just happens to have connections to a big scandal magazine.  But before they can decipher the meaning of these new facts, the ex-husband is dead...again from a shotgun blast.
Meanwhile, Dr. Brinkley is quite sure that he noticed something that Heimrich ought to know.  When he finally remembers what it is, the captain and his lieutenant prove to be difficult to track down.  The villain of the piece has also remembered....and is ready to kill one more time to keep the doctor from contacting the police.

The Lockridge books are generally light and breezy--particularly those written by the husband/wife team (Richard leans more towards the suspense/thriller side when writing on his own).  This one still has its lighter, funny moments (the final scenes mentioned above, for instance)--but the murders this time round are a bit more brutal than usual.  Oh, not brutal by modern mystery standards--nobody who has a steady diet of up-to-date blood and gore thrillers will blink an eye--but a close-range shotgun death is certainly more brutal than the average Lockridge murder.  

That didn't lessen my enjoyment of the mystery.  I still had a good time with my friends Heimrich and Forniss...and Dr. Brinkley is one of my favorite secondary characters in the Lockridge world.  A fast-paced, quick read with a nice little surprise ending.  Three and a half stars.

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