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The Scarlet Wench

The Scarlet Wench - M.K. Graff I need to mention I received this book from Goodreads giveaways in exchange for an honest review.

This is the third book of Nora Tierney mystery, an American living in Great Britain. She lives in Ramsey Lodge which belongs to her friend Simon Ramsey. The later has troubles with not enough income coming from the Lodge, so he invites a traveling theater group to stage a play in his place as a publicity stunt. Not surprisingly, the actors are a very colorful bunch with their personal friction between each other magnified by them trying to play their theatrical roles in real life. What started as fairly harmless pranks developed into some very serious incidents which finally culminated in a crime. Nora just could not stay away from the investigation.

I really like the settings of a classic English mystery which reminded me of such genre classics as Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers. The book even includes maps of the Lodge and immediate surroundings; it actually helps visualizing the place. The crime, then it finally happened was of a classic limited-number-of-suspects type which once again worked out great.

Now for not-so-good parts. It took way to long for the crime to finally happen (I keep calling this just a crime to avoid spoilers). One of the main reasons for this was a big romance subplot with all of the tropes of the genre. Nora - a single new mother whose husband recently dead (but that is fine as they were about to get a divorce) - has a lot of men falling for her head over heels; all of them are tall, dark, and handsome.

I have not read the first two books of the series, but in this one Nora comes up somewhat two-dimensional. She thinks she tries to help Simon with all the preparations, but she actually ends up leaving her baby with the people who actually do useful things (like the cook) to entertain him while she pursues her romantic interests. It was also mentioned in the book several times she is a good mother. Well, a good mother would never leave her baby alone in a room with a culprit on the loose on the premises - something Nora does with alarming regularity.

The identity of the culprit was obvious fairly early in the book - at least to me. Nora and her boyfriend Declan (who happens to be a cop) invented a completely harebrained explanation of the events and were trying to get the get the facts fit - which facts refused to do. For the life of mine I could not figure out what made them lose common sense during the investigation and go with the simplest and most obvious explanation; have not they heard about Occam's razor? Knowing the methods of modern police I can imagine Declan would be satisfied with the first suspect in sight no matter how unlikely he/she was, but what about Nora? What clouded her judgment? This brain-dead moment was the major reason for the book not to be rated higher.

My criticism probably came out somewhat harsh, but it is a reflection of my frustration with it book. It has such promising beginning and was good overall, but its shortcomings are impossible to overlook. 3.5 stars is the final rating.

This review is a copy/paste of my BookLikes one: http://gene.booklikes.com/post/962527/great-settings-of-a-classic-english-mystery-but-the-mystery-itself-is-somewhat-weak