October 18, 2002

The Perennial Boarder, by Phoebe Atwood Taylor

Thankfully, Foul Play Press, which I believe has been bought out by Norton, keeps Atwood Taylor's books in print. Someone out there besides me must read them because they are consistently on the bookshelves in the Large Chain Bookstores I browse on occasion. I keep a list in my wallet of which ones I own so I can snap up those that aren't on the list when I find them.

The Perennial Boarder has Asey Mayo returning to Cape Cod for a weekend off from helping Bill Porter refit his car plant to making tanks or planes. Just as he walks in the door, still in his city clothes, his cousin Jennie insists he help her deliver clams to a local hotel because her husband, Syl, has twisted his ankle and can't drive the truck. After some breakdowns with the truck and problems with military convoys taking up the road, they get the clams to the hotel just under the time deadline only to find it deserted with a dead body in the telephone nook. And the dead body is dressed in the clothes of one of the guests who has been coming to the hotel during the summers for years and years. And there is a tomato pincushion in the middle of the floor. Asey decides to investigate.

These books aren't for everyone. They are definitely period pieces with convoluted plots that donít follow the normal formula for setting up murder mysteries. Asey really has no gimmick to distinguish him from other detectives except that everyone on the Cape trusts him to solve mysteries, including the local cops. There is no luscious descriptive writing to fill in the set and the dialog tends to be terse. And I love them. They are an absolute hoot to read because you never know what is going to happen next or how Asey is going to get himself out of the fix he's found himself in. The stories are straight from the era of radio drama when the good guys were good and the bad guys were bad. No psychotic killers with a horrible childhood to lend sympathy. Just plain old murders for plain old reasons like, well, money.

Posted by Deb English at October 18, 2002 06:22 PM