Feb 08, 10
Read in August, 2006
Renie Jones has been obsessed for years with a house near her childhood home and gets her cousin, Bed and Breakfast owner Judith McMonigle Flynn, to visit the house with her. Judith has solved a few mysteries in her past and senses one now: why are the owners, Dick and Jane Bland, never seen? Why isn't Sally, Jane's sister who also lives there, ever seen? Why is there a mysterious package delivered to the house the same time every year? Judith's curiosity causes her to become a murder suspect when a body turns up in her car trunk - a body directly related to the Bland house.
"This Old Souse" is a very humorous but loosely plotted mystery. It's as if Mary Daheim had the basic idea of a story involving mysterious occupants of a house, wasn't sure how to get Judith and Renie to the house plausibly, but liked the idea so much that she decided to go ahead and have fun with it. And fun she does have, starting with the improbable names of Dick, Jane, and Sally. She delights in creating over the top characters, some of which can be fun, but some are totally unbelievable like the incompetent mailman and insensitive receptionist at the vet's office. If you've never read a book in this series, Judith and Renie can be hard to take at first. Judith claims to be interested in people, but she often comes across as just being nosy and expects people to confide in her even if they've just met for the first time. Renie can be annoying too, pushing her way around. Gertrude, Judith's ancient mother, has been abrasive in past books, but Daheim tones her down quite a bit in this book.
Despite the awkward setup, the mystery itself has some nice moments, although about two thirds of the way into the book I figured out what was in the mysterious package left on the porch. Daheim does rely a bit too much on coincidence (Judith just happens to talk with the murder victim shortly before he is killed and his body is left in her car, which conveniently has a tricky trunk latch). But there are some really nice twists in the story that will keep the reader guessing who the murderer is.
"This Old Souse" is a good book for readers who like a nice, humorous, if light mystery.