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10 December 2014

Charlotte MacLeod's Rest You Merry

In the wee small hours of Tuesday morning I finally finished Charlotte MacLeod's Rest You Merry! It's the first in the Peter Shandy Mystery series and SO good!

The book was originally released in 1978 and I'm more than a bit dismayed that no one had told me to read her offerings until she popped up as one of my recommendations on GoodReads. I'm going on three decades of being smitten with the genre of the "cozy mystery" so that's a lot of teachers, librarians and bookstore owners who should have known.

I love Peter Shandy.

Like, big puffy heart love.

Like, more than I ever loved Gilbert Blythe love.

He's a 56 year old professor at an agricultural college in Massachussetts. He's intelligent. He's snarky. He's compulsive. He's impulsive. He's also been such a private type that his colleagues and neighbors on campus didn't seem to realize some of these things until one particular Christmas season.

Every year the campus puts on a massive festival called the Grand Illumination and all of the houses on campus (Shandy's included) are expected to participate. For years Shandy has refused, in spite of the constant badgering from the festival's committee members (especially the chair of the committee, who happens to also be his best friend's wife). After all, he refers to the event as the "Annual Fleecing" for all of the money it brought in from visitors. He wants no part of it.

"This was the seventy-third time in eighteen years she’d nagged him about decorating his house. He’d kept count. Shandy had a passion for counting. He would have counted the spots on an attacking leopard, and he was beginning to think a leopard might be a welcome change."

This year, though, he hired decorators to make his house as bright and loud and obnoxious as he could and then he, himself, escaped on a ship out of Boston called the Singapore Susie. Of course, Shandy ends up back on campus before the festival is done and finds a dead woman in his house.

The woman?

Jemima Ames -- his best friend's wife and the head of that blasted committee. She wasn't the most popular woman on campus even though she seemed to be involved every where and with every thing.

“Poor Jemima was such a vibrant personality.”

“That depends on how you define vibrant,” her husband quibbled. “Constantly in motion and not getting anywhere but making a lot of noise about it, like a tuning fork?”

Shandy decides that her death wasn't the accident it looked like and ruffles more than a couple of feathers in trying to get others to pay attention. He's given orders to fix the whole mess by the college president, Thorkjeld Svenson. Svenson is a Viking in a suit. I keep picturing Donal Logue a la King Horik whenever he appears. The messier the mess gets, the more Horik-ish Svenson seems. I love it.

Of course, the mystery gets solved by the end thanks to Shandy and his best friend's son-in-law's aunt (didja get that?), Helen. Along the way we get to know Shandy, Helen, and a supporting cast of characters from the campus community that leave me smiling (and sometimes shaking my head).
You'll have to read it yourself if you want to find out whodunnit, of course, but once you have you can come back here (or to the Facebook page) to thank me and discuss.

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