Thursday, July 05, 2007

Charlotte MacLeod Slam!

I hate writing reviews of mysteries. It is such a difficult thing to do without giving away the plot, while still giving the reader an idea of the novelistic style. So let me start with Charlotte MacLeod. By all reports, she was a woman who took the job of writing very seriously, and would actually work at it in a regular fashion. She apparently was also somewhat genteel, which is a description belied by her female characters. They may well appear genteel, but have backbones of steel, and are not fainting violets by any means.

Sarah Kelling is one such character. We meet her in The Family Vault, a seemingly shy young woman married to a man decades her senior, and overshadowed by all of her relations, particularly her blind and deaf mother-in-law, who rules them with her weakness. But during the course of the novel, we discover that she has quite an interesting personality, and that it takes only a little bit for her natural tendencies to overcome her studied meekness.

The problem I have is that this series is composed of at least half a dozen more novels than I have been able to track down, and those gaps lead to depressingly large jumps in the narrative. We meet Sarah and her foil, art detective Max Bittersohn, in the first book... and then I haven't got the second one, but have to skip to at least the third. Then there's a big jump between The Bilbao Looking Glass and The Recycled Citizen, and another between The Silver Ghost and The Resurrection Man... and it's quite frustrating.

Perhaps the most distinctive thing that can be said about MacLeod's writing is that it is classical mystery, with poisons and deliberate accidents and absurd numbers of bodies by the end. And naturally every book is set around the complexities of the enormous and interbred Kelling clan, which, given the number of them that seem to be running around fictional Boston, isn't all that surprising. (Sarah is, herself, a Kelling married to a Kelling... but the closet connection is fifth cousin or somewhat, which is also what is known to geneticists as "unrelated.")

So here's the series, go, enjoy.

The Family Vault
The Palace Guard
The Bilbao Looking Glass
The Recycled Citizen
The Silver Ghost
The Resurrection Man
The Odd Job

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