|Marianne MacDonald: Blood Lies|
Martin's Press (Hardcover), ISBN 0-312-28305-9
Not having read the first four novels, I felt a few info tidbits needed to be added. I wondered why Dido toted around a son but never mentioned a husband. And I searched for an explanation about her desperate need to get out of London and take a vacation. Those two missing pieces aside, the story proceeded with nary a hitch.
Dido (a grown-up version of Nancy Drew) leaves her father and friend to babysit her London antique books store, packs up her infant son Benjamin (who eats, drinks and rarely needs changing or entertaining) and heads to the country to visit childhood friend Lizzy Waring. Ensconced on the country estate of her new husband's ancestral home, Lizzy asks her dear but snoopy friend to uncover her new in-laws' family secrets.
Lizzy's controlling mother-in-law and a servile sister-in-law ooze mystery. The dotty old father-in-law elicits sympathy. Teddy, the ex-con brother convicted of killing a servant girl, sets Dido and Lizzy scouring the estate and surrounding community for the rest of the story. While the friends sort things out, the in-laws search for a lost family treasure. Strange cars sitting outside of the house at midnight, a nosy gardener, and the odd allegiance the children pay to the parents add up to a tangled web.
Dido calls in her father and friendly bookstore sitter to help explain the clues and eventually solve the mystery. When a heavy rain washes out a ditch and exposes a body, all of the clues connect to explain the secret Lizzy's in-laws banded together to protect.
Macdonald resorted to the somewhat dated "sleuth explains all" ending, yet ties up dangling strings neatly and satisfactorily. She mixes secrets, missing treasures and dysfunctional families in a traditional gothic style then adds a modern twist. Perhaps the only mystery left to solve involves Benjamin the baby who, as so often happens to kids in mysteries, seems more like excess baggage than a character or plot device.
One warning to bibliophiles, this book contains graphic scenes of book abuse.
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