Lou Allin's Reviews > Condemned to Repeat

Condemned to Repeat by Janice  MacDonald
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Edmonton’s Literary Ambassador

Bone-chilling cold, isolation, that’s Edmonton for most people. But Janice MacDonald finds the sunshine in her established amateur-sleuth series starring Randy Craig, an English major and itinerant researcher in tough economic times. Condemned to Repeat is the latest entry.
This time web maven Randy is contracted to the iconic 1912 Rutherford House to develop an interactive on-line website to draw tourist attention to the noble brick house, steeped in history and documented by Mrs. Rutherford’s considerable diaries. The Friends of Rutherford House manage the lovely building, home to the first Premier and site of many events and a popular restaurant. On the tours docents ensure that visitors stay behind the velvet ropes, says Randy: “Everything in the house is an artifact…I sure didn’t want to go down in history as the girl who broke Alexander Rutherford’s chair.” The great man’s imprint upon the city endures in the thriving university he founded, another haunt of Randy’s.
A gala, candlelit mystery-dinner theatre hosted by a talented magician at the stately home starts with more than a bang when just before dessert and coffee are served, an employee is found dead upstairs, and it’s not the “fake body.” This locked-room mystery has sixty guests and six actors on board, a nightmare for the police. But with all the commotion of the presentation, who was out of place? Back stairs and window exits complicate the timeline for movement, scheduled or unscheduled.
Among puzzled others, Randy can’t understand why anyone would wish harm to a young woman with no apparent enemies when there are plenty of characters with nasty dispositions in the cutthroat and game-playing world of grants for historic sites. With her cop boyfriend on her side, but not in charge of the case, Randy sifts through possibilities.
It’s easy to like Randy. She’s hard-working, talented, and prone to very human traits like sleeping in and procrastination. Faced with hostility, she manages to bite her tongue during presentations and walk a politic line. And like many women, she’s dithering about moving in with Steve, a paragon of organization and neatness, who serves her tea, toast and marmalade and keeps apple strudel in the fridge for breakfast. But is she really comfortable in this perfect condo? “Then I thought about my toaster full of crumbs and my lowly dishpan and ratty bedroom slippers….I needed to be home.”
Needless to say, the killer is far from finished, and each new assault raises more problems. The crimes must be connected, but how? Where did that magician go? What about the crabby board member? Is Randy’s boss also a suspect? What will the helpful archivist say when he discovers that a diary has gone missing after Randy’s research? The upstairs-downstairs theme in the Rutherford family history speaks volumes for the social mores of the times.
Randy shepherds the reader through many of the highlights of this complex city, its history short but rich. Whether delving into the Ukrainian background, celebrating the Spooktacular Hallowe’en at the Fort Edmonton complex, cider and pumpkin muffins at the farmhouse, bobbing for apples, tagging zombies, or hearing screams from the old Jasper House Hotel, Randy makes the perfect tour guide. Fascinated, I actually went to the Rutherford House website to see some of this Edwardian prairie world. This book walks a delicate tightrope between fact and fiction, not an easy feat.
Locals love the series, and those who know little about the great province of Alberta have a treat in store.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
November 1, 2013 – Finished Reading
November 3, 2013 – Shelved

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