Books by Charlotte MacLeod

IT WAS AN AWFUL SHAME by Charlotte MacLeod
Released: July 1, 2002

"A mildly diverting collection, best by far when it eschews the whimsical."
MacLeod deserts for the moment her usual series—one featuring Professor Peter Shandy of Balaclava Agricultural College (Exit the Milkman, 1996, etc.), the other Sarah Kelling and detective husband Max Bittersohn (The Balloon Man, 1998, etc.)—to reprint a collection of 19 short stories, about half from the '60s, half from the '80s. They run the gamut from the excruciatingly silly "It Was an Awful Shame," involving a group calling itself Comrades of the Convivial Codfish, to "Better a Cat"—taut, chilling, and very short indeed. Between these extremes are several exploits featuring both Max and Peter, including "Counterfeit Christmas," in which Professor Shandy, in the midst of a frenzy of Christmas revelry on campus, tries to track down the person responsible for a spate of phony $20 bills. He succeeds, with heartwarming results. It's back to chills in "Lady Patterly's Lover," in which beautiful Lady Patterly, married to a paralyzed, helpless aristocrat, begins an affair with estate manager Gerald. Matters take an unexpected turn that leads to a crime with a surprising victim. Read full book review >
THE BALLOON MAN by Charlotte MacLeod
Released: Dec. 7, 1998

Another excursion into fantasyland with Sarah Kelling, of the old-line Boston Kellings, and her Jewish husband Max Bittersohn, head of a detective agency specializing in art recovery (The Odd Job, 1995, etc.). This time, the two have volunteered their spacious house in Iverson's Landing for the wedding of Max's nephew Mike to Tracy, daughter of pickle king Warty Pilcher. A tent has been erected, and the wedding gifts are on display in the library. It's there that Max spots the ruby-and-gold necklace (minus gift card)that was meant to be Sarah's but that went missing in the wake of the deaths of Sarah's first husband Alexander and his tyrannical mother Caroline. A second visit to the library surprises Louis Maltravers, master locksmith, who makes a deft getaway. There's no getaway the next day, though, for the murdered corpse found under the tent soon after a hot-air balloon lands on top of it—the balloon's occupants two very peculiar neighbors, the twins Alistir and Calpurnia Zichery. There's more, a lot more, including another killing and Max's disappearance and improbable rescue, before all the answers are forthcoming. Until then the reader must endure lengthy descriptions of the oh-so-cute doings of Max and Sarah's three-year-old son Davy; much dialogue (rarely clever) with Sarah's gin- swilling Uncle Jem Kelling and his valet Egber; and endless details of meals eaten in the Kelling-Bittersohn household. Faithful fans may be enchanted; others may find a rambling wreck. Read full book review >
EXIT THE MILKMAN by Charlotte MacLeod
Released: Aug. 28, 1996

Peter Shandy, botany professor at Balaclava Agricultural College and sometime sleuth (Something in the Water, 1994, etc.), lives, with librarian wife Helen, next door to dairy-management Professor Jim Feldster and Mirelle, his harridan of a wife. Taciturn to a fault, but a member of umpteen lodges, Jim disappears one night on the way to a lodge meeting. The Shandys' house guest, mystery writer Catriona McBogle, on her way home to Maine and exercising her penchant for getting lost, finds herself on a little-used, treacherous road and spies a car at the bottom of a ravine. It contains a trussed-up, dehydrated, near-dead Jim Feldster. Catriona had already unearthed Jim's carefully hidden kinship with the famous Feldstermeister clan of Dairies International, whose patriarch has just died, leaving Jim the head honcho. As Jim slowly recovers in the luxurious family manse, a neighbor back in Balaclava Junction has discovered Mirelle's blood- covered body seated in her pristine, white-carpeted living room. Peter's efforts to make some sense of it all aren't helped by village policeman Fred Ottermole, Mirelle's eccentric doctor Howland Melchett, or college president Svenson's hatred of publicity; events, however, quickly overtake all these wonderfully weird characters. Nit-pickers could wish for less of the Shandys' somewhat smug banter; less food and cat chat; fewer over-the-top characters; and a plotline less bizarre. But the story is incident-packed, often wryly funny, and intriguing most of the way. The author's legion of fans will undoubtedly love every minute. Read full book review >
THE ODD JOB by Charlotte MacLeod
Released: May 3, 1995

An over-the-top adventure for Boston's Sarah (nÇe Kelling) Bittersohn. Her husband, Max—partner in their art-recovery- oriented detective agency (The Resurrection Man, 1992, etc.)—is in Argentina, chasing down a pair of Watteaus stolen from the Wilkens Museum. Established in Boston by the late Eugenia Wilkens, the museum has had its problems, with more looming in the shape of Elwyn Fleeson Turbot—a rich, wannabe gentleman farmer, with a gold-encrusted wife, a pair of delinquent twins, and a hectoring air, who's been named head of the museum's doddering Board of Trustees. Turbot's appointment is almost immediately followed by the murder of Dolores Agnew Tawne, a dedicated museum administrator and gifted copyist, found stabbed to death with an antique hat-pin. Sarah, unknowingly named executor of Dolores's estate, finds strange things happening—as well as a strange photograph of a group of masked women in costume. Having got son Davy safely stowed with in-laws, then, she bustles to and fro in search of answers that finally arrive, melodramatically, during a run-in with a bellowing Turbot. Snail-paced and wordy much of the way; beyond bizarre for the rest. This one's strictly for the author's enthusiastic she-can-do- no-wrong devotees. Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 1994

Botanist-sleuth Peter Shandy (An Owl Too Many, etc.) is staying at Bright's Inn, a landmark in the Maine coastal village of Pickwance, while he visits the famed lupines of elderly retired teacher Frances Rondel. This peaceful mission is interrupted, though, by the sudden death of despised local con man Jasper Flodge, who collapses into his chicken potpie one night in the Inn's dining room, dead of cyanide poisoning. As days pass, the restaurant becomes a backdrop for drama—explosive outbursts from Flodge's estranged widow Lucivee; the tender reunion of Fred Wye with wife Iolanthe, separated for three years by one of Flodge's nastier scams—all of it endlessly and boringly commented on by the Inn's resident busybody, Claridge Withington. It takes a second killing and a flood of casual gossip before sharp-eared Shandy, now joined by wife Helen, figures it all out. A bizarre puzzle fueled by bizarre characters in the comfy downhome ambiance so well done by MacLeod. Her legion of fans will love it. Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 1992

This tenth outing for investigators (specializing in art and antiques) Max and Sarah Bittersohn (The Silver Ghost, 1988, etc.) finds them spending a summer in Sarah's Beacon Hill house in Boston and deeply involved in the murder of Sarah's aged old friend George Protheroe, found stabbed to death in the overstuffed mansion he shared with unflappable wife Anora. Max and Sarah sense a connection to recent thefts of artworks newly restored by Bartolo Arbalest, who calls himself ``the Resurrection Man.'' After a series of eerie misfortunes, Arbalest has set up a tightly controlled atelier of artisans and restorers—all of them bodyguarded by patrician Carnaby Goudge. As mourners gather at the Protheroe home after George's funeral, a second murder begins to reveal the long-ago-in-India roots of the present carnage. The heavy-handed, near-parody plot is loaded with excess in all departments—myriad details of food, clothes, and furniture; arch dialogue; red herrings; fey characters; and, in the end, massive ennui. Strictly for faithful fans. Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 1, 1991

Continuing in the tradition of her 1989 collection, Mistletoe Mysteries, MacLeod and 12 others offer 13 Christmas-themed stories of, mostly, the ``Bah, humbug!'' variety. Eric Wright's Salvation Army scam—a twist on a twist on a twist—is mildly diverting, and Robert Barnard's domestic imbroglio, with its gift-wrapped bomb, is drolly told, while Margaret Maron welcomes the New Year southern- style—with fruitcake, stolen diapers, and a Faulknerian illegitimacy. Dorothy Cannell, in cloying voice, tackles the January sales; Mickey Friedman, New York-style, hassles the neighbors; and editor MacLeod, whose oversweet author introductions will make you want to put coal in her stocking, brings forged twenties to Peter Shandy's attention at the Balaclava Agricultural College Christmas fete, then opts for a saccharine denouement. Also included are tepid outings from Reginald Hill, Elizabeth Peters, Patricia Moyes, Evelyn E. Smith, Bill Crider, John Malcolm, and Medora Sale. For last-minute shoppers only. Read full book review >
VANE PURSUIT by Charlotte MacLeod
Released: April 10, 1989

Back to Balaclava Junction and its sometime sleuth, Professor Peter Shandy of the local agricultural college (The Corpse in Oosak's Pond, etc.), for more far-fetched criminal activity amongst the strange-sounding names and homey kitchens. Someone is hard at work stealing the now very valuable 19th-century weather vanes made by Praxiteles Lumpkin, then setting fires to cover up the thefts. The latest theft and fire are in the Lumpkinton soap factory, in which old Caspar Flum died and Brinkley Swope suffered serious burns trying to rescue him. By some coincidence, it just so happens then that Peter's pretty librarian wife, Helen, has been doing a study of Lumpkin's weather vanes for the Smithsonian and, soon after the soapwork's vane is found missing, sets off with neighbor Iduna Stott to photograph another of Lumpkin's works on a barn at Sasquamahoc Forestry school in Maine, headed by Peter's long-time friend Guthrie Fingal. They're to stay with Helen's friend Catriona McBogel, who has planned for her guests a whale-watching trip on Eustace Tilkey's old lobster boat. Meanwhile, Peter, along with Brinkley Swope's reporter-brother Cronkite, has uncovered a veritable arsenal at a survivalist area called Woeful Ridge. They're rescued from some resident savages by a different kind of survivor—Miss Winifred Binks, living underground in a well-equipped series of caves. The ill-fated whale-watching trip; Peter's discoveries; Guthrie Fingal's wife's diary and more—much, much more—eventually connect and lead to a detestable but barely credible mastermind. Incident-packed and moving at a furious pace, this one's fun even for readers with a low tolerance-level for the author's fey way—a bonanza for her fans. Read full book review >