Mystery under the elms. Oh wait. That should be desire under the elms. When I was a little girl living on Elm Street in a New Jersey town, I asked my mother why we only had sycamore trees. Those are the ones that form those nasty balls with points all over them. They start off green and gradually dry to brown and the nasty boys throw them at the innocent girls. Actually they are more correctly called buttonball trees. I think some of us married some of those nasty buttonball-throwing boys when we grew up. Anyway, my mother said that there had been a nation-wide blight that had destroyed all the elms in the country, so we were stuck with the darn buttonballs, not to mention those darn boys.
But this book is really mystery under the magnolia. Because that is where the body of the ex-mayor of the town was found, pretty much intact except for his missing ring finger that had been snipped off. So he no longer had that ring that used to reside on that finger. However, every cloud having a silver lining doncha know, there was a ring on his pinky in compensation. That ring came from a teenage girl who was murdered 25 years ago, and whose finger was also missing when the body was found.
So I think we have a nifty set up for a good mystery here. While I am not much of a fangirl of serial killer mysteries, I smiled to myself because this one was really serial, if you know what I mean. And what I mean being that we can look forward to the next victim missing a finger but wearing the ex-mayor’s ring, and so forth and so on, ad murderitum.
Our detectives are P.I.s, totally different in personal life style, dress style and mental style. Thayne is a very handosme Filipino/Caucasion mix dude with a special gift, that special gift being italicized so often that I wanted to murder the author and cut off her ring finger. His gift was that every evening, fueled by alcohol, he would make drawings, which had to do with people and events he encountered during the day. Since he was a cop, often the drawings had to do with current cases, and by this means he was able to solve a bunch of cases and creeped everybody out and got booted off the force. He then went into the P.I. biz.
Fox is a very short, extremely methodical person, not particularly attractive and dresses in a manner that worsens her overall effect. She is blunt, aggressive, and brutally frank. Her people skills definitely need updating.
Chung is the only detective on the small force in the town where said nine-finger body was found. Just as he began to examine the scene, he collapsed with acute appendicitis and was rushed to emergency surgery, and forced to recover in bed. He contacts his friend Thayne and convinces the Police Chief to hire him until he, Chung, can get back on his feet. Police Chief agrees, but is not happy. When Thayne learns of the 25-year-old murder of the girl with the missing finger, he wants to see the files on the case, which have mysteriously disappeared. Since the father of Fox worked the case, he thought that Mz. Fox might still have them, her father and brother having been murdered and hanged two years ago.
Mz. Fox refuses to release these documents to Thayne unless they work as partners because she, too, needs money, and is about to lose her house.
And so the unlikely duo of Fox and Thayne begin a partnership which while cordially hating each other, works well as they have different but complimentary skills.
So for characters we have an elderly lady with a fabulous garden, the gardener who found the body, a prison like house next door where they hear strange sounds, the ex-mayor’s wife, the ex-mayor’s mistress, some side characters on the police force, and a really really good mystery. I was this close to figuring it out.
My unhappinesses about the book. Although the author tried to give Fox, the lady P.I. a good role, she, the author, fell down the rabbit hole of sexism. You know, sexism is so prevalent that we almost don’t notice it in all its perverse forms. For instance, she goes out of her way to tell us how unattractive Fox is, how horribly she dresses, all out of the mouth of Thayne. How badly her hair is cut, how terrible her makeup. This speaks to how women are always being told how to dress, what to wear. We have no one discussing Thayne’s wardrobe , or really that of any other characters. I know she was going for the Taming of the Shrew effect here, but it annoyed me.
Then at one point, Fox goes off on her own investigating a hidden passage and gets whacked by the baddie. I liked how she was feisty and if she wasn’t all P.C. all the time, too bad, she had a job to do. So I am looking forward to seeing how she gets herself out of this, and wouldn’t you just know it…she has to be saved by the cavalry. I was so
The plotting was really good, lots of twists, and back story, and there is certainly enough for a series, and I do believe there are several more out there.