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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Review: Murder and Sullivan by Sara Hoskinson Frommer

I found this book mixing stage musicals and murder and I just couldn't resist.  Unfortunately I came down with a doosy of a cold while reading it.  I only hope that this review makes sense in my cold-blurry-headed-haze...aaaaachew!

Author: Sara Hoskinson Frommer

Copyright: 1998 (Worldwide Library); 252 pgs.

Series: #3 in Joan Spencer mysteries
Sensuality: N/A
Mystery sub-genre: Cozy
Main Character: Widowed Joan Spencer is director of the Senior Citizens Center and plays the viola
Setting: Oliver Indiana

Obtained book through: Library Find

The story opens with a tornado hitting the small town of Oliver and catching Joan as she was walking home through a park. She spots a young girl who had slipped away from her parents and is able to shield the girl in a creek bed while the tornado blasts through. Joan returns the girl to her family, Judge David Putnam and wife Ellen. Joan later finds Judge and Mrs. Putnam are actors in the play, Ruddigore, she is playing the viola in the symphony for. During an actual performance, and seemingly with the audience as witnesses, the Judge is murdered. Joan and her romance-skittish boyfriend, police detective Fred Lundquist are hard pressed to even figure out how the killer managed the murder without being seen let alone who in the cast did it.

Joan is well developed and shows sympathy and understanding for the new widow, as she had been there herself. I know this sounds so standard in books now, but Joan is an independent woman raising a teenage son and managing quiet well after the death of her minister husband. There are a few books that do an independent woman justice without being over the top or making them man crazy, and this is one of those books. You feel, through the first person narrative, that Joan is realistic and simply a decent woman who cares about people. Her work at the Senior Citizen’s Center showcases just how caring she is as she serves the older citizens.
Joan ran to her, scooped her up, and carried her to the creek.

"It's all right! she screamed.  "We're going to be all right!"  The wind tore the words from her mouth - she couldn't tell whether the child could hear her much less believe her, but the little arms had a stranglehold around her neck.

Don't panic.  Don't scare her even more.

"Here we go!  Hang on!"  With the little girl clinging frantically to her, she dropped to the ground and slid backward down the muddy bank into the creek, all the while watching the funnel cloud reach the ground and advance.  A line of beech and shagbark hickories toppled toward the sycamores.  Then it was too dark to see anything, and the siren was wiped out by an even louder sound.

It really is like a freight train, Joan throught in amazement.  Just the way they always said.

At what felt like the last possible moment, she threw herself down over the little body in the creek bed.
The narrative does switch a few times to give us Detective Lundquist’s viewpoint and that is handled well and gives insight into his side of the mystery…and their relationship. Having been burned badly a few times he is taking things real slow with Joan.

There is Joan’s delightful son, Andrew, just in college and shows signs of maturing that pleasantly surprise Joan. Andrew is past the lazy and churlish stage and is helping out around the house and with the elderly neighbor.

I will be honest, I had guessed the culprit but didn’t have the motive down solid – only a vague idea of that. The clues were there but cleverly slipped in and I didn’t get all of them. The ending had a good bit of suspense done well and - without giving anything away - let me just say Joan realistically took care of herself – well done Ms Frommer! Everything was brought to a satisfying end. It is a good cozy mystery with the small town flavor and charming residents. The sprinkling of the Gilbert and Sullivan play and Joan’s playing the Viola added to the story rather than detracted from it. This book has ignited a desire in me to see more of the classic plays.

For your convenience you may purchase your copy here.

Until next Monday, I wish you many mysterious moments.
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Christine Thresh said...

I just love her books featuring Joan Spencer.
I bought *Buried in Quilts* because I am a quilter, but I've read all the other ones, too. I wish her books were available now. I've bought used copies.
I don't know a thing about music, but it does not matter.

A.F. Heart said...

Thank you Christine,

I enjoyed the book and was surprised I couldn't find more recent books from this author. It is a shame too.

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