"The Measby Murder Enquiry" by Ann Purser
Berkley Prime Crime, 325 pp., $7.99 (paperback original)
Reviewed by David Marshall James
Ivy Beasley-- her name couldn't be more apt.
No doubt she's been referred to as "Ivy Beasleybody" more than once, yet certainly never to her formidable face.
As for the "Ivy"-- she clings tenaciously to a cause, to a task, to a belief-- in the manner of the vine.
This second mystery novel starring the most active resident of a small, private, British-village retirement home finds her little investigative group, Enquire Within, running strong, if not profitably.
Thankfully, Ivy's cousin and fellow EW member, Deirdre Bloxham, is rolling in it-- and a Rolls-Royce at that.
And, Cousin Deirdre has got time enough on her hands, being a widow rambling about a large house, when she's not rambling about in her posh ride.
Also with time on their hands are the fellow EW participants rounding out the foursome. First, there's Roy Goodman, who's cohabitating with Ivy.
Well, in the sense that he's also a resident of the retirement home.
Then, there's Gus Halfhide, who lives around the corner from the old folks' place, in Hangman's Row.
Unusual name, Halfhide. Sounds made up. Could it be?
Gus doesn't attempt to hide the fact of his unusual past, some of which comes up to snap him in the garters and to whip up the plot, which centers on a new arrival at the home, Alwen Jones, who's possessed of a past to rival Gus's.
Alwen is also possessed of two grown daughters, Bronwen and Bethan. Think Goneril/Regan and Cordelia. Think a fair spot of trouble.
Author Ann Purser's characters and sense of humor carry the day in this British-village mystery. Along with regulars Ivy, Deirdre, Roy, and Gus, there's the local squire, Theo Roussel.
That cad. That roue. That bodice-buster.
Well, he's getting on a bit, so his bodice-busting days are behind him. He'll allow his quarry time enough to remove their garments properly, and then get down to business.
When Deirdre's not rolling in her Rolls, she's rolling with the Squire.
Don't go over-envying Theo. Good help's hard to come by, and his latest housekeeper (his previous one was drugging his tea), Noreen, is fond of smelly linament and serving tinned food. That's a good way to get canned.
Indeed, Theo would love nothing more than to sack Noreen and hire on Katya, a favorite employee among the residents of the retirement home. Theo's ready to take the French maid's outfit out of mothballs, and have Katya try it on for size.
"Don't you dare go to work for him," warns Ivy, who's rather fond of her, as well as "Pinkers" Pinkney, also of the retirement home staff. Finally, there's regulations-loving Mrs.Spurling (that's "old trout" to Ivy), who manages the place. Poor thing hasn't been the same since her husband ran off with the cook at the old folks' home.
They make a jolly lot, and there's a jolly secret here not to be spilled or spoiled. We'll leave the spilling and spoiling to Noreen.
Meanwhile, have a corker with this latest bit of Beasley-ness.
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