Sunday, October 11, 2009

Books: The Sarah Kelling series, by Charlotte MacLeod

"Not by word, glance, or so much as a flaring nostril did Jeremy Kelling indicate that he found the plastic reindeer only the second most detested object present. He merely got on with the agenda."
(The Convivial Codfish, Charlotte MacLeod)

These mysteries are like well-crafted wooden toys. Neat, nicely built, brightly colored, effortlessly interlocking pieces that are a pleasure to play with.

OK, I may be going analogy-mad, but, anyway, this is good stuff. The series reflects a detailed, affectionate view of Boston and its long-time residents. The primary character is Sarah Kelling, a member of the eccentric Kelling clan of blue-blood, baked-bean Bostonians.

"Show me a Kelling who'd leave a valuable antique unguarded in a place like this, and I'll show you six other Kellings trying to get him certified as a raving lunatic."
(The Bilbao Looking Glass, Charlotte MacLeod)

Over time, Max Bittersohn, a detective specializing in stolen and forged art, joins her in center stage, often giving voice to the outsider's view of this society.

"...bellies trained on baked beans and boiled dinners didn't heave easily. So far Max had seen various of their ... friends amorous, bellicose, and somos but almost never nauseated, except perhaps by a misquoted passage from John Greenleaf Whittier or a laudatory reference to Franklin Delano Roosevelt."
(The Convivial Codfish, Charlotte MacLeod)

These are home- and family-bound cozies - the action is seldom far away from the dining room and the broom closet, and the motives are always tangled with family and society relationships. The characters are fully-fleshed people, and the ongoing characters move in their lives as the stories continue - and often as a consequence of the story - rather than running in place and solving one murder after another, as happens in some series.

I read several mysteries a week, but only a few stay on my shelves for re-reading. These all have a permanent place on the shelf.

Picture of Old State House, Boston, by Daniel Schwen. Wikipedia Commons - click for details.

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