Sunday, July 1, 2012

Book Report: All the Pretty Hearses by Mary Daheim

As I've mentioned before, I'm a big fan of Mary Daheim's bed and breakfast mysteries.  Morbidly funny and funnily morbid, they star innkeeper Judith McMonigle Flynn, a hostess with the mostest who makes homicidal hijinks seem more delightful than deadly.  The books' lighthearted bent is apparent in their titles, which include Nutty as a Fruitcake, Creeps Suzette, Suture Self, and Hocus Croakus as well as twenty-some others.  Daheim puts out a title a year, and I always bypass the latest hardcover in favor of the latest paperback.  This year's was All the Pretty Hearses.  Having suffered through All the Pretty Horses (the highlight of which was Billy Bob Thornton's character's overuse of the word "candyass"), I got a chuckle out of it.

The plot pegs Judith's retired detective husband as a murder suspect, although it soon becomes obvious that he's merely taking the rap to better work on the case from the inside.  Yet as always, it wasn't the plot that kept me reading, but the characters.  Judith's sharp-tongued, toolshed-dwelling mother, Gertrude, is a hoot of a broad who slings one-liners with all the verve of a vaudeville vixen.  But it's Judith's almost equally irascible cousin Renie who really takes the cake.  Successful owner of CaJones Graphic Design (insert laughter here) by day and feisty curmudgeon by night, she puts the "temper" in artistic temperament with her misanthropic mien and colorful candor.  Even more eccentric is her and her psychologist husband's obsession with their stuffed ape Oscar, not to be outdone by their overzealous affection for their wardrobe-wielding pet rabbit Clarence.  Renie also eats like a horse (but never gains an ounce), dresses like a homeless person (despite her collection of designer clothes), and spends money like there's no tomorrow.  Like most sidekick characters, she's more interesting than her comparatively conventional counterpart, Judith.  I'd say that I'd like to read a story starring her, but I suspect that that would spoil the silly.

1 comment:

Valerie said...

A sharp-tongued tool-shed dwelling mother? Now I am intrigued!