Sunday, July 20, 2008

Arson and Old Lace by Patricia Harwin

I wanted to like this book. It takes place in England, it's a mystery and has a cat, but the problem that did it for me was the main character's complaining. Cathy Penny is recently divorced and moves to England where her daughter lives. She picks Far Wychwood because her and her (then) husband fell in love with it so many years ago. Apparently love didn't last with the husband, but still exists with the village. The village isn't exactly in love with her, though. She meets her cantankerous neighbor, George Crocker, who's independently challenged. No one else wants to pitch in and help him, including his son. So, like a good neighbor, Cathy is there, whether George wants it or not. Unluckily, this arrangement doesn't last for too long, because within a few days, George's house burns down, hence the "Arson" in the title, "Old Lace" never makes an appearance unless it applies to the age of the people in the book. Yet, before she stirs up trouble with George, she stirs up trouble in the church when she interrupts progress by the new vicar and accidentally discovers a pile of bones. She digs even deeper to uncover who the bones belong to and who murdered George Crocker.

The title appears to be a play on the title of Arsenic and Old Lace a delightful movie, which is also a murder movie easy on the murder because its pretty clear from the beginning who the murderers are and the reasons why. I think using this play on the title raised my expectations of the book and that's exactly where it fell. The main character wallowed, which she claimed she wouldn’t do. I don't mind getting into the characters' lives, especially when I'm reading a series, but I think the author needs to put effort into getting the reader to care about the characters first. I cared less and less about Cathy, especially when she wallowed, questioned her sanity and her daughter's temperament, constantly caused trouble then walked away from it and internally complained about being the outsider of the village (even though she should've known about it first). I think the negativity is what did it for me in the book. The main character was persistent in getting to the bottom of the mystery which follows in a mystery book, but I could have done without the extraneous problems; my life gives me more than I need without reading about it.


Amanda said...

Arsenic and Old Lace is a WONDERFUL movie, I agree! Unfortunately, making a play on the title isn't the best idea if you aren't at least going to place all the elements in there. Or maybe "old lace" has some additional meaning I'm not aware of.

Unknown said...

It's been very interesting reading your reviews. I never really read mysteries (short of, like 'The Moonstone' and a few Sherlock Holmes mysteries), so the genre in it's modern form is kind of a mystery to me. It's very interesting to hear about it from an 'insider' as it were.