Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Evidence of Things Seen: Review

Evidence of Things Seen is the fifth in the Henry Gamadge mystery series by Elizabeth Daly.  It is set in 1942 and Henry is off doing unspecified war work. (In various books it is mentioned that he worked in the US and in Europe for Counter-Intelligence. Whenever he is asked what he did, he says he flew around.)  His wife Clara and their maid Maggie have gone to an isolated cottage in the Berkshires for a little vacation and to make the place welcome for Henry's return.  Another couple is scheduled to join them--but there is a delay due to sickness.  The place is rather remote and just a little bit creepy--and it doesn't help that Maggie and Clara keep seeing a mysterious woman in a purple dress and a sunbonnet that obscures her face.  She always appears at sunset and following her appearance they find the formerly latched attic door open.

The clothes belonged to Eva Hickson who had died the year before of "gastric trouble."  It is rumored that her sister Alvira may have murdered her for her money.  And it does seem strange that Alvira, now the landlady to the cottage and owner of a small farmstead, refuses to set foot in the cottage despite Clara's warm invitations.  When Alvira's horse shies and overturns her cart directly in front of the cottage, breaking her ankle in the process, she is brought fainting into the very room where her sister died.  Clara and another local couple promise to sit up with her--so she won't have to be alone in the "death room"--but even their presence can't prevent another tragedy when the lady in purple appears once more.

For Alvira is strangled right before Clara's eyes and the local police are forced to believe that 1) Clara is hysterical/crazy and making up ghost stories, 2) Clara fainted even though she swears she didn't and anything might have happened, or 3) Clara killed Alvira herself.  Henry shows up just in time to lay the ghost to rest and to prove that there is a flesh-and-blood killer....who isn't Clara.

I've always loved these mysteries with the quiet, unassuming, genteel Henry Gamadge.  They are charming slices of life during another period and Daly writes a pretty mean murder plot.  She offers up one twist after another....and even though the plot device is one I've encountered before, she still managed to pull the wool over my eyes.  I settled on first one suspect and then finally another--and still managed to be wrong.  I do appreciate it when the author can fool me.  One small point that keeps this one at three and a half stars (although I'll round up on Goodreads) is that periodically I felt out of step in the conversations.  It was like I was only hearing one half of what was said or that there were all kinds of unspoken, "between the lines" things going on that I wasn't quite getting.  I don't think it affected the mystery plot necessarily--it just made me feel a little off.  Otherwise, a highly enjoyable outing with the Gamadges.

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