A batty old woman fears that everyone’s after her for her money. And you know what? She may be right.
When Rochelle Gallagher brings her husband, Rick, and their children, Robbie and Shelly, to see her aunt, Millicent Perkins, she’s shocked that the beautiful estate she remembered from an earlier visit is overgrown and untended. Even more disturbing is Aunt Millicent, who has gone from the glamorous woman who entertained Rochelle and Rick 15 years ago to a withered, slovenly hag. Although she has moments of lucidity and even civility, her predominant emotion is an intense loathing directed indiscriminately at her relatives, her groundskeeper, the estate manager, her deceased husband Bernie’s former partner and a visiting nurse. A cookie jar full of wadded-up cash, a gun collection and a hidden treasure cause even more confusion when Millicent turns up dead in her tower. All the people in her life have a reason for wanting to kill her, and so will many readers, even when the plot takes an unexpected and implausible turn. The clunky dialogue, cartoonish characters, weak humor and awkward transition from cynicism to sentimentality provide additional grounds for skipping this amateurish entry.
Whether Rikel’s debut adult mystery is intended as a gothic parody or an Agatha Christie homage, it falls well short of either mark. Even the children are unconvincingly drawn—hardly an endorsement for an author whose previous volumes (The Windmill, 2013, etc.) have been aimed at a young audience.