a huge, startling event at page 92, a turning point in the story that affects the whole mood of the book, and will have repercussions later on. did not see that coming! and then after that, the discover of the 104-year-old woman with the lucid brain, sharp eyes, and secret knowledge. the book was good before, but it is in overdrive now. I am like the, how you say, hooked fish. it's funny too--the fact that the 1972 Mystery content reminds me a bit of a Ross Macdonald scenario--see The Chill--and the book is Dedicated to that old hard-boiled author, but the whodunit that dates back to 1932 has more of an Agatha Christie vibe, with the tight-knit group of partners who swapped romantic partners and brood over the unsolved portion of their past...and author Lahlum is apparently an Agatha Christie fan. he seems adept at following two sets of big footsteps!
GREY MASK: 3.5*
I adore Golden Age mysteries. If it’s got a detective in it and a flapper on the cover, I am predisposed to like it. Consequently, I think I’m more forgiving of them than I otherwise might be. Take Grey Mask, for instance. Some of the characters and situations border on the absurd, some of the plot twists seem out of left field, and some of the villains are just short of mustache-twirling, but that’s all part of the charm for me.
Miss Silver herself almost failed to win me over until the very end. She pulls a bit of a Scarlet Pimpernel, having very little page time in her own debut novel. Once she’s introduced, she’s just some sort of Sherlockian investigatory oracle, popping in every now and then to drop little bombshells concerning the case and berate her client for his stubborn reticence whilst managing to make the knitting of baby clothes seem monstrously intimidating. If it hadn’t been for her performance in the final chapters, I can’t say I’d be so enthusiastic to continue the series. Now I’m very much looking forward to getting to know her better.
~I'll be updating this review as I read the other books in the collection.
Oh geez, so much going on in this one!
I complained in my review for the last book that I thought Tom and Phil's relationship took a backseat. That was not the case here. The case Phil's working on effects them both personally and even brings out some secrets Phil has been hiding about himself. It really tests their relationship, bringing up old concerns, but doesn't go into melodrama territory.
The case is again well-done. Marianne, the new bartender at the Dyke, is running from her abusive ex-boyfriend, and Phil's asked to dig up dirt on him. The ex is a Douche-with-a-capital-D and annoyingly wily when it comes to the law.
And I can't believe Tom fell for Grant's line about being misunderstood. Com'n Tom, that's Abuser Manipulation 101.
This has some good and creepy twists to it and definitely doesn't end up anywhere I thought it would.
On the personal front, Tom's still trying to sort out how he feels about a family secret coming out in the previous book,
about his mother having an affair and his father not being his biological father,
so there are family tensions to deal with but again it avoids from going into melodramatic territory. I enjoyed seeing more of Cherry and Greg, and of course Gary and Darren are always a hoot. Oh, and I have to give a shout out to Arthur and Merlin too. They're just the coolest cats, if maybe a bit too quick with their affections. :D
I’ll be posting a review later. I just wanted to do my back-patting and forehead-slapping in a separate post. Spoilers abound!
The back-patting: I correctly guessed both Margot’s parentage and Grey Mask’s identity. The former I guessed when the near-identical desks with near-identical monograms showed up. The latter I guessed when Margaret told Charles her broken engagement tale of woe. Only one person in her immediate circle was both a member of Grey Mask’s group and ideally placed to come up with such a plausible false confession. First I suspected Freddy of stealing the jewelry himself, and then I realized that Margaret had never seen Freddy and Grey Mask together. Throw in a dash of “It’s always the person you least suspect” and you get a nicely seasoned pot of Overly Complicated Mastermind Stew.
The forehead-slapping: Things I totally did NOT see coming include but are not limited to: #40’s loyalties, the crooked lawyer (I really should've seen that one coming), 2/3 of the dead characters coming back to life, and the super-rushed ending. Since I’m reading a 3-book omnibus, I had pretty much no warning when I turned the page and was confronted by the cover art for the next book. It felt SUPER abrupt.