Series: Roderick Alleyn #23
Published by Felony & Mayhem Press on February 15, 2015 (first published 1963)
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The elderly Emily Pride is perfectly pleased to have inherited an island, even if her starchy pragmatism is ever-so-faintly appalled by the “Pixie Falls” spring and its reported miraculous healing properties. But really, the locals’ attempts to capitalize on the “miracles” are entirely too tacky – Ye Olde Gift Shoppe, the neon signs…not on Miss Emily’s watch, thank you. Of course, the locals are not exactly thrilled to give up their trade (Pixie Falls may be merely be known for healing warts, it’s true, but you take your shillings where you can find them). Could their frustration have bubbled up into murderous rage? Inspector Alleyn will have to sort it out. And this time, it’s personal.
Emily Pride is an old friend/French teacher of Inspector Alleyn and she has been receiving death threats, mostly because she want to shut down a small island’s tourist trade. She recently inherited the island and finds all the hoopla around the falls distasteful. She heads off to the island to take care of the situation, but once she is hurt, Alleyn shortens his own vacation and goes to the island to watch out for her. And then, of course, there’s the murder, even if it’s not the murder you expect. Happily Alleyn’s on the scene to take over the investigation.
The characters are a mixed lot. Some are bad stereotypes that tend to pop up in vintage mysteries, like the hysterical spinster and the drunk parents of the boy whose warts were “miraculously” healed. Some are more interesting, like the innkeeper’s beautiful wife. We also have assorted other locals, including the doctor, the preacher and his wife, a young couple falling in love. Of course, everyone has their secrets and most of them want the tourists to keep coming, whether they are “healed” or not.
I like Marsh’s books. The mystery is put together well. I did suspect who the killer was, but mysteries like this are allowed to be a bit formulaic. I enjoyed the characters, both the new ones and our old friends. There were a couple of scenes with Alleyn’s sidekick, Fox, who is always trying to learn French, and Miss Emily that were particularly amusing. Alleyn is his usual self. He’s married now, but Troy stays home. Agatha Troy, by the way, is one of my favorite wives in the mystery series I’ve read, even though she doesn’t really play much of a part in this one. Amber’s probably lucky, if she were born a few years later, she might have been stuck with “Agatha” after Christie and Troy.
I’ve read a lot in this series, so the question I guess is would I have kept reading them if this had been my first and I think the answer is yes. I actually like the tourist dollars aspect of the mystery, having lived in a tourist town myself for a couple of years. Ours had a Civil War battle and not a healing spring, but still.