A cozy mystery with literary aspirations by first-time author Wenner.
St. Louis tax preparer Amanda French is disturbed when she discovers inconsistencies in the tax forms of members of the Blue Lace Ladies Investment Club–her investigation makes her take a closer look at the deaths of two of its members, sisters Mary and Beatrice. The two heirs to the Carter cat food fortune died within six months of each other in bizarre accidents that the police attributed to the women’s dotty nature. Amanda, like the sisters’ Blue Lace friends, is insulted by the suggestion and believes Beatrice and Mary may have been murdered. Realtor Priscilla, handling the sale of Beatrice’s house, becomes involved when the home is vandalized. Amanda and Priscilla’s prime suspect, Mary’s stepson Tom, has ironclad alibis for both women’s deaths, and little apparent motive, considering he can’t inherit his stepmother’s estate. However, Ret Cale, Mary’s household manager and Tom’s lover, seems to have even less motive, but her shady behavior moves her to the top of the suspect list. Looking into the deaths reunites Amanda with her mother’s blue-blooded, blue-haired college friends and forces her back into St. Louis society. A middle-aged woman who is struggling to rebuild her own life after financial setbacks and the deaths of both her husband and her mother, Amanda is an enormously sympathetic character. Unfortunately, the numerous secondary characters are not as finely drawn. Amanda’s love of literature, particularly the Greek tragedies, helps her discern a number of eerie similarities between literature and the murders. Here the author may lose some readers, if confusion over the numerous Carter relatives doesn’t exhaust them first. While an ambitious and innovative twist on a traditional cozy mystery, the book’s symbolism is too heavy-handed–it’s improbable that the murderers would have such a deep understanding of ancient Greek texts. Endless discussion among the characters, combined with overblown reactions, replaces action that would have enlivened the plot and made for less tedium.
Appealing despite some flaws.