Monday, June 6, 2016

The Cinnamon Murder: Review

The woman was as natural as earth. She said what she thought, and since you yourself had had thoughts not too different from hers, you weren't shocked in the least. But I doubted if Lieutenant Dorn would agree with that. [Jean Abbot about Elizabeth Ashbrook]

In The Cinnamon Murder (1946) by Frances Crane, Pat & Jean Abbot, aided by the earnings from the oil recently found on Pat's Oklahoma property, are back in New York for another vacation--and (surprise, surprise) another murder! They were in their hotel lobby getting ready to purchase their return tickets when they first saw Brenda Davis, the stunning, wealthy widow with the silver-ash hair.  Brenda invites them to a cocktail party that afternoon. Jean wants to say no because she's just a little bit jealous of Brenda. She hasn't missed that Pat just can't seem to keep his eyes off her. But he soon stopped Jean's imaginings with his reply: "Offhand, I'd say you've got more sex appeal in your little finger than she has all over, my amber-eyed, sooty-lashed wench!" Besides, Pat has noticed that the beautiful widow is scared to death.

As usual, the Abbots can't help getting involved. Brenda is frightened, not only for herself, but for her young daughter who ultimately inherits the Davison fortune. The girl has already been mysteriously ill, the doctor who treated her is now dead from an apparent suicide, and Brenda tries to keep her safe in a lofty penthouse, protected by a jagged-topped fence. Who could possibly wish this soft-voiced beauty and her daughter dead? Could it be one of the Davison family who will only be able to access the money if the heiress is gone? Or maybe it's the mysterious Count who has an interest in both Brenda and her sister-in-law Elizabeth? What about the lawyer who holds the purse strings? 

These books are fun and frothy--far more frothy than the Mr. & Mrs. North books by the Lockridges, in fact, which is a bit surprising since Pat Abbott is a detective by trade and the Norths are both amateurs. It may be that the froth is more obvious here because Jean Abbott has none of the intuitive acumen of Pam North. Pam's thought processes are bit off-center and she seems to jump around, but she does notice things and help to put Bill Weigand on the right trail. Jean seems to miss all the clues--even those that should, by nature, be more apparent to her feminine (and fashion-conscious) eye. It seems odd that Jean, after spending the entire book going on about her expensive, fashionable hat and comparing it to other hats, should miss the clues in another woman's attire and fingernail polish. But she does. She's too busy worrying about her hat, being jealous of Pat's interest in Brenda, and worrying about a ubiquitous cab driver who she is sure must be a hit man or some such thing.

Despite the distraction of Jean and her behavior, this was a fun and interesting book and there are plenty of red herrings to lead the unsuspecting astray. No heavy thinking required, just sit back and enjoy the ride and try not to let Jean's babbling about hats and hit men bother you. And, if you can tune her out, you just might spot the killer before Pat Abbott does. ★★

This counts for the "Hat" category on the Golden Vintage Scavenger Hunt card.


J F Norris said...

I've avoided Crane precisely for her creation of Jean Abbott. This is my pet peeve among all the subgenres in mystery fiction - husband/wife sleuthing teams with the chatty adventure seeking wife. I haven't found one I like yet (Lockridges, DuBois, Roos, etc.). Oddly, there are many more HIBK with spinster sleuths that I find very enjoyable even if they are indulgent in wardrobe descriptions and details about domestic life. Usually it's the characters who save the book for me. Witty and brash appeals to me these days. I also like smart characters not flighty ding-a-lings. Jean's chit chat about hats and her obliviousness would have me closing the book and probably never returning to it.

Bev Hankins said...

Jean pushes my limits--but I do like Crane's writing (most of the time). Pam North talks the way one of my friends does, so I understand her--and she actually does get the answers before Bill Weigand quite often.

fredamans said...

I just don't think it's right for me.