This week Auntie M brings you a repeat performer AND she introduces a new series from across the pond.
Seattle native Mary Daheim’s newest in hardcover from William Morrow is The Wurst is Yet to Come. It continues her hallmark bed-and-breakfast mystery series filled with word play and humor.
This time Judith and her cousin Renie travel by train over the mountains to man a booth featuring B&B’s at Oktoberfest in Little Bavaria.
Every German association you can think of has been put into the town for the event, from lederhosen and oompah bands to sauerbraten and wursts. There’s even a life-szied dancing bear running around the streets.
Judith is stinging from criticism from the state B&B association, threatening to pull her license due to the number of bodies that have piled up at her B&B, Hillside Manor. When she enlists Renie and heads off to Little Bavaria, she’s hoping to avoid murder and mayhem and bring new business to her inn.
But things kick off decidedly differently from her plans. In the middle of the opening celebration, which includes a band of German dancers, the town’s beloved patron, Dietrick Wessler is murdered.
Despite her best efforts to avoid being involved, Judith finds her reputation has preceded her. When the local police chief, a man with a huge appetite and dubious investigating skills, begs her to help solve the murder, Judith knows she can’t refuse.
Then she finds herself also investigating a death from the previous summer, and amidst a bewildering number of locals thrown in with the various people showing up for Oktoberfest, she agrees to help out, but with one twist: Renie will pose as the sleuth to keep her reputation from becoming even more tarnished.
She’ll meet more of Wessler’s extended family than she wants to, and come to know the menu of the local pancake house inside and out as she tries to juggle her hours at the association booth while using her investigative prowess without calling attention to herself.
Whether this works out or not is half the fun for fans of the series in this 27th offering, who will enjoy the goofy turns of events and pure brain candy as a murderer is unmasked.
Next we have The Grantchester Mysteries from the artistic director of the Bath Literature Festival, James Runcie, author of four other novels, and with a resume that includes stints as a theater director, award-winning filmmaker, and scripts for several BBC television films. Sidney Chambers and The Shadow of Death takes a leap to Cambridge and a trip back to 1953, where Runcie introduces his unlikely sleuth: the Canon Sidney Chambers, vicar of Grantchester, an unusual detective at first glance, whose guilty pleasure is an affection for jazz and warm beer.
The 32 year-old bachelor, an unconventional clergyman at best, also has an unconventional friend: Inspector Geordie Keating, whom he meets every Thursday night at the pub for an evening of mutual relaxation–until the night Keating convinces Sidney to help him investigate the suicide of Cambridge solicitor Stephen Staunton.
Sidney can go where Keating cannot, and that includes talking at length with the dead man’s wife, partner and secretary. He also finds the company of the new widow, the German Hildegard Staunton, an accomplished pianist, to be surprisingly soothing. Sidney’s own gentle manner and unassuming ways soon lead him to unearth the truth behind Staunton’s tragic death, but this is only the first of a string of crimes where he will find his tact and position called into play to use in an investigation.
Sidney’s detecting skills will try the patience of his housekeeper and his own conscience, as he continues his church duties and takes tutorials at his old college, Corpus Christi, while defining what a vicar should be for himself and for his parish family.
A jewelry theft will occur right under his nose at a New Year’s Eve dinner party; the murder of the daughter of a former mob boss at a jazz club will find him closely involved; a death which may be a mercy killing will find him questioning ethics; a case of art forgery will bring involve him and bring danger to his friend, Amanda, whom Keating thinks Sidney should marry; and a murder in the middle of an amateur production of Julius Ceasar becomes a matter of reputation.
Runcie has done a lovely job with the period details, down to the music and behaviors that match the time. In Sidney Chambers, we have a vicar who quotes poetry and muses on the meaning of love: ” … It was the most unpredictable and chameleon of emotions, sometimes sudden and unstable, able to flare up and die down; at other times loyal and constant, the pilot flame of a life.”
These consecutive stories were a pleasure be immersed in, transported back to a time when the world was regaining its footing after World War II. It is to be hoped that Runcie will continue the Canon’s adventures for our reading pleasure, brain candy of a very different sort, but just as satisfying.