Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Murder & Blueberry Pie

Murder and Blueberry Pie is one of the lightest of the "light and breezy" mysteries by Frances and Richard Lockridge.  Usually items mentioned in the titles have a great deal of relevance to the mystery--given that track record, one might expect the corpse in question to have died by poisoning courtesy of the titular pie.  Not this time.  The only way the pie really figures at all is that it allows the protagonist to take her mind off the odd little tidbits that are nagging at her.  And it serves as a dessert for her to share with her love interest.  But I get ahead of myself.

Lois Williams is a  recent widow--getting over the loss of her airline pilot husband.  She's been trying to distract herself with involvement in the community and is helping to organize a tour of historic houses on the occasion of the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the founding of Glenville, her home town.  When she stops in to ask Mrs. Abigail Montfret, 84 year old descendant of a leading Glenville family, for permission to place her home on the tour list, she is asked to serve as a witness to the elderly woman's will.  Not a half hour after Lois leaves, the woman dies.

Then the odd things begin to happen.  Lois will hear the woman's voice again....but this time from the mouth of a much younger woman.  The attorney who drew up the will seems to have taken extreme precautions to be sure that the signature is accepted as genuine.  When Lois shares her doubts with Bob Oliver, owner and editor of the town paper, his reporter's instincts kick in and they begin an investigation.  Soon Lois is the recipient of phone calls with no one on the line and someone is lurking outside her patio doors.  One of the tires on Bob's car is cut--by the villain in the case or by a gang of hoodlums in Greenwich Village?  

When a woman Bob knows who just happens to be an actress who excels at portraying older women just happens to die in a "mugging"--and coincidentally just happens to die the same night Bob and Lois pay her visit, Bob winds up taking their theories to Detective Nathan Shapiro.  Shapiro's superior, Bill Weigand, sends Shapiro to Glendale to nose around "just in case."  Between Shapiro's apparently purposeless questioning and Bob's nose for news, it isn't long before the culprit is revealed.

This story is probably the least detection-oriented of the Lockridge books I've read.  Not a lot of clue-finding, not a lot of suspect interviews.  And Nate Shapiro comes on the scene rather late in the game.  For detective story purists, this isn't going to be your cup of tea--there are no Golden Age, fair-play rules being followed here.  But for character and fun, it a good read--and it's a quick read.  I knocked this one out in a single day.  No heavy (mental) lifting involved--just a pleasant way to spend the afternoon.  Three stars.

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