Thursday, June 28, 2007

Marian Babson Slam!

Marian Babson is like popcorn. Her novels are short, fluffy, and not heavy going, and you can't have just one.

In the Teeth of Adversity
Perkins & Tate have a problem when one of their customers, a dentist, appears to have killed a celebrity with an experimental drug. However, when they get to the scene, the celebrity is fine— but the partner is dead, leading to a dangerous series of events that puts the little company into big danger.

Boy, that sounds trite, doesn't it? Well, it probably is. Let;s move on to a more subtle book.

Pretty Lady
Denny is a grownup, but only in body. He's about the mental level of an eight-year-old, and he presents a huge problem to his ailing mother, who doesn't want to leave him as a burden to her daughter, Denny's sister. But her plans intersect with those of a bored wife, the pretty lady of the title, who sees in Denny a way out of her marriage and into money. Sure, Denny will lose out in the process, but all she cares about is herself. A neat little tale, where the tension lies not in ignorance of the plans, but in how they will be thwarted.

Past Regret
Amnesia as the result of trauma leaves a study abroad student wandering a foreign country, and her mother frantic. When it turns out that several students are missing, the mother decides to travel and find out for herself what is going on. The fact that a murderer is waiting for the amnesiac to surface only increases the tension, though several too-obvious red herrings detract a bit.

The Twelve Deaths of Christmas
Bizarre murders, apparently senseless killings begin to show a pattern that centers on a boarding house. Which tenant is killing people over trifles, and why? The lead-in to a Christmas dinner is a bit slow, and again, red herrings litter the trail. Babson doesn't give quite enough information for the reader to solve the mystery, but it's intriguing nonetheless.

Murder Sails at Midnight
A midnight cruise is the setting for a contract killing. The only question is which woman is being stalked; Babson leaves it vague enough that it could be one of several. Each woman is courted as a shipboard romance; each woman has something to make the killer pause, because it wasn't mentioned. Could it be the too-successful wife— with small child in tow? The potential heiress who limps? The rich, aging invalid in the wheelchair? Or the faithful nurse, whose last position gave her unexpected wealth? The reader knows that whoever it is, the killer will fail in his commission, but as always, it's the path there that intrigues.

Line Up For Murder
The concept of a queue is not so foreign to Americans as once it was— witness the months-long lines for the Star Wars prequels. But when Babson wrote this tale, lines for big events were more of a British thing, and this oh-so-British queue is lined up for a high-class sale for the New Year. One queue-saavy lady does her best to make it personable, but has difficulty when confronted by a young lady and her surly companion. But meddling in romance leads to surprising results, and shades of Patty Hearst never quite make it to the fore.

The Cruise of a Deathtime
One might have been left behind.
Two might have been suicide.
Three might have been an accident...

On a luxury cruise, an ever-increasing body count leaves the crew scrambling to figure out who is killing people off, and why... especially as the radio's been smashed, the destination country is in revolt, and the medical supplies in the hold are something less than medicinal. This book is an absurdity, yet entertaining for all that. One begins to wonder when they'll figure out the murderer through sheer process of elimination.

Death In Fashion
In the high tension world of fashion, it isn't surprising when pranks are malicious. Pranks don't usually escalate to murder, however, and a strategically-placed wire leads to a beheading. Then a cameraman turns up dead, and the starving models begin to wonder if they're to be next.

I completely missed the homosexual tension the first time I read this, many years ago. It just didn't occur to me that the reason the fashion designer was fawning over the obnoxious twit was that he was besotted. Chalk it up to the understated writing, and a naïvete that I no longer possess.

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