Sunday, July 10, 2011

Book Report: Loco Motive by Mary Daheim

Mary Daheim has long been my favorite mystery writer. Dubbed "the reigning queen of the cozies" by the Portland Oregonian, Daheim spins zany yarns starring nice but nosy bed and breakfast owner-turned sleuth Judith McMonigle Flynn and her cranky cousin Renie. Short for Serena, Renie rhymes with "beanie," but I didn't realize that until too late in the game and still prefer to think of it as rhyming with "Jenny." (Renie with a long "e" makes me think of Beano, which isn't exactly pleasant. Although not altogether inappropriate given Renie's character, now that I think of it.) As for Judith, her crime-solving prowess has reached such renown that her fans have created a Web site devoted to her called FASTO: Female Amateur Sleuth Tracking Offenders. Unfortunately for Judith, most people get the name mixed up and exclaim, "Oh, you're FATSO!" upon meeting her.

Loco Motive is chockfull of this signature silliness. Like most of the books in the series, it begins with an appearance from Judith's mother, the cantankerous, toolshed-dwelling Gertrude. But the real fun begins when celebrity B&B guest and infamous daredevil Wee Willie Weevil takes a flying leap off the roof and breaks his leg. The cousins are relieved to be rid of the pest until they discover that he and his cohorts are on the same Boston-bound train as they are. A missing Amtrak attendant, a mysterious camera, and the possibility that Wee Willie Weevil isn't who he says he is converge to deliver another wacky whodunit for Judith to solve.

As a side note, you can always count on plenty of tasty meals in the Daheim adventures. Renie's appetite for food rivals Judith's appetite for mayhem, so lavish entrees, desserts, and snacks abound. Even on the train, the eats were described as delicious. Glamorized or not, I couldn't help but hanker for a dining car dinner.

Now, the conclusion of Loco Motive was a little confusing. There were lots of loose ends and characters to tie up (some literally!) in the last few pages, and I'm not entirely sure I understood it all. But then, I'm not sure that I was supposed to, especially because many of the character connections didn't come to light until that point.

Even so, I enjoyed the ride.

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