Books by Irene Allen

Released: Feb. 16, 1998

A fourth episode in this series of low-keyed mysteries starring Elizabeth Elliot, an elderly Quaker widow from Cambridge, Mass. (Quaker Testimony, 1996, etc.). Here, Elizabeth has flown to Seattle to meet Reba Nichols, her lifelong friend from college days. The two are staying at the house of Reba's deceased parents in Richland, on land bordering the old Hanford nuclear site, which produced plutonium during WW II and still employs some locals. Reba is reluctant to sell her inherited property, convinced that people in the area are suffering from radioactive poisoning. She plans to take soil and water samples for expert analysis before confronting government authorities. With the help of Elizabeth, Reba gathers her samples, moving at one point onto the Hanford sitewhere she's stopped by security guards and taken away in a jeep. Elizabeth drives back to the town, expecting to meet Reba there after her release. Instead, her friend's body is found shot to death outside her house, and Al Cartwright, one of the guards, denies ever seeing her. Elizabeth gets little assistance from Sheriff Tomlinson but strong support from Reba's young friend Dr. Meghan Zillainas determined as Elizabeth is to find Reba's killer . . . a mission finally accomplished with a little help from Meghan's trusty dog Panda. A straightforward look at a hardscrabble community with a real-life problem, its momentum slowed by Elizabeth's preachy musings and a flabby, not-so-convincing solution. Still, mildly entertaining. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 9, 1996

Third in a series set in Cambridge, Mass. (Quaker Witness, 1993, etc.), focusing on the sleuthing talents of widowed Elizabeth Elliot, sixtysomething Clerk of the area's Quaker congregation, called the Meeting. Hope and Sheldon Laughton, parents of six-year- old Cathy, are members, too—pacifist fanatics who withhold IRS taxes (used for purposes of war). As a result, they're due to be evicted from their handsome house, which is located next door to the home of Hope's childless sister Constance and her husband Titus. Elizabeth, making a supportive early morning call to the Laughtons on eviction day, finds Hope's body, shot to death, on her kitchen floor. As Detective Stewart Burnham bumbles his way along- -first arresting, then releasing Elizabeth—she does some quiet investigating on her own, learning of the unrequited passion of Otto Zimmer (also a Quaker) for the victim, and of Sheldon Laughton's recent conversion to Catholicism, undisclosed to the Meeting. Adding to Elizabeth's anxiety are the illness of her best friend Patience and the ambivalence of her own feelings about marriage to suitor Neil Stevenson. In the end, Elizabeth acts quickly to prevent another of Burnham's follies and produces the true, surprising culprit. More tract than fiction, with long passages detailing the history, philosophy, practices, and current struggles of the Quakers. Earnest Elizabeth is accorded near-reverential treatment; the puzzle gets short shrift. A curious work, then, that will leave the patient reader better informed, if only mildly entertained. Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 1, 1993

No need for Harvard grad student Janet Stevens to press her sexual harassment complaint against her advisor, eminent paleontologist Prof. Peter Chadwick: somebody's killed him in his lab by a clever method that pretty well narrows down the suspects to his professional colleagues. Was it one of his other grad students—beady-eyed Forrest Lang or nice-guy Eric Townsend—or his hungry junior competitor Peter Kolakowski? Or, as the Cambridge police insist, was it Janet herself? Fortunately, Janet ends up in the capable hands of Quaker clerk Elizabeth Elliot (Quaker Silence, 1992), whose no-nonsense authority (``humor of any sort was suspect to her'') is just what Janet needs (``Would you be so kind as to come to my house for lunch?...A can of soup seems called for'') to steel her against assorted villains of satisfyingly deep hue. Apart from an irrelevant but sharply observed subplot in which Elizabeth tries to deal with a newly released rapist she's taken in: as self-assured and ingenuous as Nancy Drew, and about as mystifying. Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 1, 1992

Add thoughtful Elizabeth Elliot, clerk of the Cambridge (Mass.) Quaker Meeting House, to the roster of aging amateur sleuths. Here, the mid-60s Elizabeth finds herself in opposition to the police, who have incarcerated Tim, a homeless renegade, for the murder of wealthy John Hoffman just because Tim denounced Hoffman and his ethics at a Sunday Meeting of the Society of Friends. More to the point, Elizabeth thinks, is that Hoffman was planning to change his will; that his lawyer-nephew lied about it; and that someone stole Hoffman's journal—which outlined his plans and his new beliefs. Does the murder tie in, somehow, with the topic currently being debated by the Meeting—same-sex marriages? Gentle Elizabeth, who here must resort to housebreaking, eavesdropping, and lies of omission to further the plot, ultimately ekes out the truth by breaking an alibi—and with it any chance the Meeting had to profit from Hoffman's death. A somewhat stodgy, old-fashioned debut (characters wonder what will happen ``on the morrow''), but enhanced by descriptions of Quaker customs and philosophy. Introspective traditionalists will find much to mull over. A follow-up is in the works. Read full book review >