Pines (Vengeance Is Mine, 2018, etc.) offers the sixth installment of her Chautauqua Murder Mystery series, set in a peaceful retreat in western New York.
It’s summertime at the Chautauqua Institute, and 50-something Chautauquan Daily sports editor and amateur sleuth Mimi Goldman plans to marry her fiance, Walt Dellaria, on Labor Day. Then she receives a call from her friend Betsy McLaughlin, who passes on a request from Betsy’s aunt Maddie, a local attorney. Maddie’s client, Thomas C. Whistler Sr., the “Energy Bar King” who just sold his company to Kellogg’s for almost $2 billion, has been found dead in his hi-tech, Japanese soaking tub. Maddie suspects foul play, as Whistler’s seven adult children have plenty of reasons to do away with their wealthy father. Would Mimi be willing to observe a meeting of the potential heirs and share her impressions? It’s quickly determined that Whistler drowned—and apparently, not by accident. Pines employs her established talent for misdirection to provide readers with a generous supply of potential culprits, each of whom has a plausible motive. For example, Whistler has mistreated—and in at least one case, physically abused—each of his seven offspring, who range in age from 33 to 45; there’s a business rival with a substantial grudge; and there’s Laura Catter, a mysterious woman whose name appears in Whistler’s will. This series entry has less action than Pines’ previous mysteries, which makes it less of a page-turner. Nonetheless, its many quirky characters manage to keep things entertaining. Especially enjoyable is 93-year-old Sylvia, the mother of Mimi’s dressmaker; she likes to floor the accelerator on her daughter’s Prius, so she’s an able assistant for chasing down leads. The investigation itself is methodical, and seemingly everyone has something significant to hide. Intermittent, short sections involving a one-week lecture series on lying offer clever diversions that merge seamlessly, and sometimes humorously, with the main narrative.
A breezy distraction that will keep readers guessing.