Set in a mythical town on the bluffs of the Oregon coastline, Wigglesworth’s first installment of the Glenda at Large Mystery series is a cozy, quirky whodunit and adult ghost story.
Though it begins with a mysterious murder on the beach, readers quickly realize that the focus of Glenda’s stay in Perch Cove is not going to be the details of the case. Instead, the story revolves around Zylda, the town psychic, who is intent on establishing Glenda as her successor. In fact, the narrative proves to be full of red herrings—first the beachside murder and then the setup of kindhearted widower Perry as a potential love interest for Glenda. But perhaps the biggest red herring of all is Glenda herself as the star of the book. Though the jacket introduces her as a “sixty-two year old bottle blonde,” the text never actually describes her, beyond a few passing comments about her weight. Zylda, by contrast, is described strikingly from the outset as a turbaned, classic spirit guide. As a result, Glenda, who is narrated in the third person, feels like a vehicle—or, shall we say, a medium—rather than a fully developed character. Augmenting this sense is the narrative’s reliance on dialogue to represent the majority of the action, which unfortunately burdens the characters’ conversations with so much expository detail that it obscures their individual voices. Dialogue is also often given without setting or attributions, which, especially as chapters or sections are opening, gives the conversations a ghostly effect. But perhaps this is a manifestation of form following function, as the novel morphs into a ghost story about halfway through. Wigglesworth’s narrative skills shine through in the italicized, first-person sections that punctuate several of the earlier chapters in which Zylda and café-owner Bill are able to tell their stories in their own voices, liberated from the awkwardness of expository dialogue.
A quick, conversational read with the coziest of settings that leaves readers longing for a stronger narrator.