Friday, July 3, 2015

The Turquoise Shop: Review

The Turquoise Shop (1941) is the first book in Frances Crane's Jean Holly [later Abbott] and Pat Abbot mystery series. Jean Holly is the owner of The Turquoise Shop, selling silver and turquoise jewelry and a few paintings here and there. Patrick Abbott is a handsome private detective from San Francisco who has come to Santa Maria, New Mexico on an artistic holiday. He wants to take up painting as a hobby--or so he says. But is it just coincidence that he has arrived just in time for a murder and some counterfeit bills to trickle through town?

Mona Brandon swooped down upon Santa Maria a few years ago--dominating everyone with her money and her manner. And everyone included her artistic husband who had disappeared several months prior to Abbott's arrival. Did he grow tired of his bossy wife and head for parts unknown? Or is his the body found murdered in the desert and made unrecognizable by the turkey vultures. Suspicion falls upon Carmencita Dominguez--a woman of Mexican descent who had lived in a cabin with the man who called himself Arkwright and who has been identified as the body in the desert. She was prosecuted by Mona Brandon a few years ago for allegedly stealing a diamond bracelet. Rumor has it that Tom Brandon, Mona's missing husband, was infatuated with the girl and had returned to Santa Maria to live with her.

But if Arkwright was Tom Brandon, why would Carmencita kill him? And if she didn't, then who did? The local sheriff, Jim Trask consults Abbott on the case--finding Jean Holly's shop with its cozy fireplace to be an ideal spot to talk things over. When another murder happens--this time at Mona's expensive hacienda on the outskirts of town--Trask and Abbott are faced with even more questions and suspicion gets evenly spread among the artistic crown in Santa Maria. The spotlight of scrutiny focuses first on Mona and then on her handsome Indian chauffeur Luis. Fellow artist Michael O'Hara, town gossip and resident poet Gilbert Mason, and Jean's good friend Daisy Payne all fall under suspicion as well. But who benefits most--and does it have anything to do with the counterfeit twenties passed at Jean Holly's shop? 

This is a fairly solid series opener. Good introduction to our main characters, Jean and Pat, and an interesting and eclectic group in the supporting cast. These are definitely on the softer side of the private eye genre, especially with the addition of the budding romance between Jean and Pat. There are lots of red herrings and Pat keeps the clues fairly close to his chest, but the mystery is intriguing nonetheless. A good read for those looking for a bit of mystery and a light touch. ★★

For the full scoop on Frances Crane, you can't do better than to check out Tom & Enid Schantz's essay on her over at the Rue Morgue Press.

This fulfills the "Color in the Title" square on the Golden Vintage Bingo card.


TracyK said...

I have been wanting to read more of Frances Crane's books, but so many books to read. You are very close to filling up the card.

Bev Hankins said...

Yes...almost there!

fredamans said...

Eclectic characters is exactly what I was thinking while reading the first half. Great review!