Murder in a Basket
I’m not ashamed to say that this book appealed to the Murder She Wrote fan in me. I hadn’t heard of the cozy mystery genre before, which is completely absurd since it’s right down my alley (see the last sentence for the reason why). The fact that the main character is a librarian is absolute perfection. The oddball characters that populate the small Ohio town she lives in only made it better. This book is a wonderful way to spend a Sunday afternoon. It’s light and entertaining with the exact right amount of urgency, humor, and intrigue.
College Librarian India Hayes is back and better than ever in this new entry to Amanda Flower’s Agatha Award-nominated series.
India’s annoyance turns to suspicion as she discovers the body of Zen-like basket weaver‚ Tess Ross‚ on the festival grounds. Tess leaves behind an angry blacksmith husband‚ a confused adopted son‚ greedy siblings‚ a dysfunctional artists’ co-op‚ and a chocolate-colored labradoodle with a two-million-dollar trust in his name. India finds herself playing sleuth as well as foster-owner to the two-million-dollar labradoodle. With her own eccentric family commenting from the sidelines and her Irish-centric landlady‚ Ina Carroll‚ as volunteer sidekick‚ India must discover the truth before she has a permanent canine houseguest or she ends up the next victim in the basket weaver’s murder.
It doesn’t surprise me at all that Flower’s last book Maid of Murder was nominated for an Agatha Award because I spent the entire book thinking of how much this reminded me of a Christie novel. It’s very classically written (light on the gore, heavy on the sleuthing), which is refreshing in our culture drenched in sex and violence. (If you’d like to refute that last point, go ahead and watch the next CSI. It doesn’t matter which one. Done? Point made.) It incredibly rare to have murder treated in a way that illustrates the visceral horror of the act while consciously averting its eyes from the blood splatter. Flower still crafts the dark amorphous shape of murder in the night, but she does it in a way that is infinitely more subtle than has become customary in our times and I cannot tell you how much I appreciated it. It’s immensely comforting to me to know that this story was created in this year and that it’s well received. It restores my faith in humanity a bit, which is not an easy thing to do.
As to the characters, I really love India Hayes. She won my complete buy in as a fully actualized human being. She’s super-intelligent, persistent, and surprisingly reasonable giving the family that swirls about her. I can’t even tell you how easy it is for me to empathize with her. While my family’s language is different from India’s, we still have one that’s specific to us. Hell, we even have short poems that are specific to us, mostly involving purple cows and birdies in the sky. Moving on… Although India is fully fleshed out, she isn’t the only one. It would have been easy to reduce the characters surrounding her to stereotypes, but Flower rose far above that. She added shades of gray to each and every one of her characters, even the ones that were dead. Even the animals were given full personalities. In fact, they were the primary means of injecting humor into the story and I’m not going to lie, it really made me want to bring a dog home. (Though, of course, I still can’t what with allergies and all.)
In the end, this story is immensely entertaining and it’s a very well written mystery. A tale of murder, trust funds, and art co-ops in a sleepy Midwestern town that will make an afternoon disappear in no time.
4 ink bottles.