Generally scarifying Atkins (Mother’s Milk, 2009, etc.) dials down the violence, though not the body count, in a demi-cozy that asks who’s declared war on the antique dealers of Grenville, Conn.
Mere days after Mildred Potts (of Aunt Millie’s Attic) wrestles what proves to be the severed finger of the late Philip Conroy (Grenville Antiques) away from her Shih Tzu, Taffy, the police are called to Mildred’s murder scene as well. In the meantime, Ada Strauss’ friend Evie has died, presumably of natural causes, and Ada’s been pressed into service as executrix. That chore brings Ada into contact with a wide range of antique jobbers and sellers, from Philip’s partner, Tolliver Jacobs, to Rudy Caputo (McElroy’s auction) to Mildred, very shortly before she gets murdered. So Ada and Lillian Campbell, her best buddy in Pilgrim’s Progress nursing home, are right in the thick of things when decaying bodies that could be those of Carl McElroy and Rudy Caputo are discovered. Ordinarily there’d be no mystery about why someone would kill local antique dealers, especially since most of them seem little better than pond scum. But, as sometime narrator Lillian sagely asks Police Chief Hank Morgan, “Why would someone kill [Mildred], rob her, but then throw out, or give away all the jewelry” that turns up dangling from yew hedges and the like? The answer to this excellent question must lie deep in the past—perhaps in the death ten years ago of Philip’s troubled sister Wendy.
The killer is surprisingly lightweight for someone of Atkins’ formidable ability to evoke evil. And Lillian isn’t a patch on Jessica Fletcher, still less Miss Marple. First of a series.