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by Maia Chance
Minotaur, November 2018
288 pages
ISBN: 1250109078

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

This is a very clever, sometimes ridiculous but loads of fun, sendup of women trying out being private detectives maybe because they have nothing else interesting to do in Vermont in 1923. Thirtyish widow Lola Woodby and her partner, her sixtyish Swedish cook Berta Lundgren, have merrily romped their way through three criminal investigations in the upper social strata of New York City, and now they've been invited to take on a fourth.

The fact that the invitation is from the vast Goddard Estate in the mountains of Vermont in the middle of winter and that it is signed "Anonymous" does not make either of them pause at all. Sleuthing is what makes their lives interesting during the frequent absences of Lola's oh-so-handsome Ralph Oliver and Berta's ever-loving gangster, Jimmy the Rat. Specifically, the invitation instructs them to retrieve the large ruby ring that the elderly and somewhat senile Aunt Daphne has stolen from the estate's owner, Judith Goddard, and return it to Judith who wants it perhaps to use as an engagement ring now that she is engaged to dashing international champion skier Maynard Coburn. On to the train and off to the icy colds of Vermont go the intrepid two and as soon as they arrive at the Goddard estate, they find Aunt Daphne (who is wearing the ring). She readily admits to stealing it and they go to work trying to get it off her pudgy finger.

But luck is not with Lola and Berta at all. Not one bit. Judith Goddard's party is sloshing in alcohol yup! It's Prohibition, and therefore everyone in sight spends every waking minute drinking as if there's no tomorrow. And, oops!, there is no tomorrow for Judith Goddard for just as she slurps down yet another cocktail, she keels over and hits the floor, dead as can be from cyanide in the Negroni. Almost as suddenly as that happens, the local police arrive and somehow are led to believe that Lola and Berta are the thieves who took the ring and have arrived just in time to murder Mrs. Goddard.

Forbidden to leave the Maple Hill area until the police can figure out how Lola and Berta have managed so much crime so quickly and for no reason whatsoever, our brave and fairly foolish twosome take on the solving of the theft, the murder, and the probable causative factors of greed (and a fight over who gets the estate) and a rum-running operation that is perfectly situated so near to the US border with Canada in a mountainous region laced with caves for storage and secrecy. It seems the only way to get permission to leave and go back to the safety of the big city and it really beats getting arrested and blamed for the crimes.

There's a Winter Carnival (of course there is), Cedric that Lola totes everywhere (Pomeranian, fits in her clothing and/or her purse), creepy weird small-town rural characters, dumb policemen, a ski-jumping contest, amorous elderly men pursuing Berta. You know the drill.

It's a cozy. But it's not a dumb cozy. Oh my, it's really swish!

This would be perfect for reading while lying on that exotic beach during vacation except it's a cold, winter, Vermont thingie, so maybe head for a ski lodge and make sure you have the book tucked in your suitcase. Maia Chance is a hoot: perfect mindless pleasure to pass on to good friends.

Diana Borse is retired from teaching English at Texas A&M University-Kingsville and savoring the chance to read as much as she always wanted to.

Reviewed by Diana Borse, November 2018

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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