I have always loved mysteries, especially series mysteries. You can get to know and like a character even if they sometimes frustrate you with their obtuseness or naiveté. Such is not the case with Dorothy Martin in The Gentle Art of Murder by Jeanne M. Dams. Dorothy is an older woman, a retired teacher married to a retired police detective. She acts like an older woman with titanium knees who is tired at the end of the day. I feel like I am relating to a real person although I don’t know any detectives amateur or otherwise in real life.
Jeanne M. Dams is an American writer who has wished she could live in England since visiting in 1963. However, since she lives in Indiana she has to live there vicariously through Dorothy and through long trips for research. Dorothy is also an American from Indiana who has moved to England after her first husband died.
In Dams’ latest Dorothy Martin mystery, Dorothy and her husband Alan Nesbitt find themselves involved in the mystery surrounding a body they find in an elevator shaft. The victim is eventually identified as the head of the local art college who supposedly spent the summer abroad. There is confusion about the cause of death since he appears to have been dead before he was put in the elevator shaft. Candidates for murderer abound since he was not well-liked.
Dorothy and Alan befriend a young teaching assistant at the college, a gifted sculptress. She rec3eived threatening phone calls and moved into Dorothy and Alan’s spare room. After someone destroys the valuable art work of the professor of sculpture and he disappears, the photography studio is also trashed.
Scanty and confusing clues exist, but our heroine eventually figures out the puzzle. Fortunately, she does not confront the perpetrator alone, but with her husband at her side and police on the way. Using common sense and prudence shows her mature character and an understanding of her limitations.
The latter characteristic is something I admire. Incautious behavior seems to afflict many heroines in the mystery genre. Even if it does make the plot more of a cliff hanger, it doesn’t necessarily increase our respect for her intelligence.
The books are set in Sherebury, England, a setting that appeals also to me. I have never desired to move to England to live there permanently, but I would like to visit someday. It is a country so steeped in history that I would like to explore.
Dorothy has confidence in the police who are important in finding information. They are not depicted as obstructive, bumbling or uncaring. Their supposed ineptitude is not an excuse for her sleuthing. She is seen as helping, not interfering.
I also like that she has a great husband. He is caring, helpful and understanding of her penchant for sleuthing. As a former police detective, he has ties to the police and they welcome his observations and insights. In fact, he enjoys a little bit of sleuthing, too!
~a post from Carol