Saturday, June 28, 2008

Cozy in Connecticut: The "Vintage" Mysteries of Amy Patricia Meade (new Vermonter)

Amy Patricia Meade moved from New York City to Arlington, Vermont, during the emergence of her three mystery novels. Charming "who-dunnits" set in Connecticut in the 1930s, they contrast the intimate rural feel of a village where everyone knows everyone else -- most especially the village's crime-into-fiction writer Marjorie McClelland -- with the zest and gritty threat of not-too-distant cities like Boston, and the wealth and culture of Marjorie's sweetheart, Englishman Creighton Ashcroft.

All of Meade's titles come from music of the period. The first of her series is MILLION DOLLAR BABY; the second is GHOST OF A CHANCE, from Bing Crosby lyrics about a lover who doesn't stand a ghost of a chance with the object of his affection. (The flippant heroine, Marjorie, very nearly misses her chance, too.) And the third is SHADOW WALTZ.

Of the three, SHADOW WALTZ exposes the most "crime" and requires the most detection. It could be read on its own ... But because each of the books depends strongly on romance threads that build through the series, I'd suggest reading the three in sequence. That's also a good way to warm up to Meade's gently teasing sense of humor, which involves lovers hidden under a hospital-type gurney, a meddling set of neighbors determined to turn a wedding into a mystery party, and plenty of culinary amusements as well.

Here's a sample from SHADOW WALTZ to get you in the mood:

Marjorie sat beside Mrs. Patterson on the Beidermeier sofa. "Oh! I thought they'd never leave. And then you went ahead and invited them for dinner. I don't know why you'd do such a thing, Creighton. What's gotten into you lately?"

"Just being nice, darling. I feel for Jameson...." He shook a chrome shaker filled with ice and gin and emptied the contents into the three vermouth-coated glasses. "Now, however, I'm here with two beautiful women and three perfect martinis--"

The doorbell rang again.

"Four perfect martinis," he amended as he grabbed another glass from beneath the bar.

Arthur appeared in the living room doorway with a stocky, ruddy-faced man with light-colored hair. "Officer patrick Noonan," he announced.

Kirkus gave a modest thumbs up to this third book, saying, "the sparkling Marjorie and her amiable beau make an engaging pair of sleuths in their third appearance." For all sorts of reasons -- the tie to the 1930s, the music themes, the light romantic plots, the gentle cleverness of the crimes, and even the Vermont residence of the author -- Meade's series is a sweet summer reading handful. Oh, and don't miss her vintage web site with the classy car and theatre marquis:

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