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Sunday, May 1, 2011

Death of a Cozy Writer, by G. M. Malliet ($13.95)

WWAD? What would Agatha do? She'd probably write something very similar if she were writing today. But G. M. Malliet has pumped her version with more acerbity and humor, not to mention a few choice swear words that Dame Agatha would find a little outré.

This is a classic locked room mystery.

Sir Adrian Beauclerk-Fisk is a nouveau riche, revolting, wealthy mystery novelist. He is roundly hated or disliked by almost everyone. Did I mention that he is wealthy? Money keeps family coming around, and his adult sons and daughter, and their significant others have gathered at the manor house for a wedding.

Chloe, the former Lady Beauclerk-Fisk, ran away as fast as she could when the children were still young. Adrian took a while but there is a new Lady Beauclerk-Fisk on the horizon. She is Violet Mildenhall, widow of the late Lord Winthrop, who died under mysterious circumstances. And so the stage is set.

It is a particularly nasty game that Adrian plays, revolving his children in and out of his will at whim. As a result, none of his children are steady, stable, or normal. All love has been lost in this family, although there may be brief tenderness between some of the siblings.

When the first murder occurs, the unbroken snow outside means that the killer resides within the hall. Detective Inspector St. Just and Sergeant Fear (whose phone ring is "Jingle Bells") are the aptly named forces of justice and judgment, and it is their duty to sort out the many motives and relationships of the manor's inhabitants.

This is a well-written, witty, and clever nod to the mysteries of the Golden Age, while at the same time retaining a contemporary tone.

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