Sunday, December 28, 2014
Review: The Body in the Goldenrod by Gloria Alden
The Body in the Goldenrod: A Catherine Jewel Mystery. Gloria Alden. Willow Knoll Publishing. 2014. ISBN: 9781503175570. $14.95. 325 pp.
The Body in the Goldenrod, Gloria Alden’s fourth Catherine Jewel mystery is set at a Civil War Reenactment taking place at the Elmwood Gardens where Catherine works. Very early we are introduced to the man everyone hates: Daniel Webster, who plays a Union Major, and we watch him being cruel to a new reenactor, Al Finch, fighting with the head gardener over where the port-a-potties should go, raging at his wife and throwing the food she’d cooked onto the ground.
A new African American family has moved to Portage Falls, and the major uses the N-word to the ten-year-old twins and their great grandmother and great aunt. No one likes him. Catherine is horrified.
It is Catherine who discovers his body after the reenactment, which of course, doesn’t use live ammunition, but someone did. She hates it that this is the sixth body she has discovered in less than six months. She is also troubled by other signs of racism she has picked up among the folks in this formerly all-white town. The Davis family has moved into the old Llewellyn place (Daylilies for Emily’s Garden), and Catherine offers to help LaVerne, the ninety-year-old grandmother and Claudia, her eighty-eight-year old sister move plants from their house in Cleveland to the new place. Then she brings them the daylilies that had been ordered when Catherine had been working at the Llewellyn place earlier and helps them plant them.
Linc Davis, head of this new family, is to be the science teacher at the local high school, where Major Webster was the athletics coach and had found ways to insult him, too. Linc’s wife Lizzy is a Cleveland lawyer. They’ve moved to Portage Falls to provide a better place for their children and their elderly relatives to live. Even Linc comes under suspicion for the murder because he, too, owns a gun from that Civil War period, like the one that killed Major Webster.
Catherine’s friend John MacDougal, the town’s police chief, doesn’t have to scold Catherine much about staying away from the investigation. Neither she nor MacDougal is keen on this investigation because they’re not sorry he’s dead, and they’re afraid to find the murderer among people they know and like. MacDougal’s interviews with suspects are less than enthusiastic.
John wants to see more of Catherine, but his duty as a police chief calls him away about the time things get interesting. This slowly developing romance inches along but seems promising, if not too many murders get in the way.
John’s mother Martha is having her own adventures with naturalist Bruce Twohill, which her son is having trouble accepting. He doesn’t trust this younger man who is enamored of his mother. John has also hired the first policewoman who comes with a trained police dog. Robin begins with a chip on her shoulder, but it doesn’t last very long with the humane ambience of the town and most of its citizens. The main characters in Alden’s books are people we can enjoy and care about, and their dominant characteristics in this series are of compassion and kindness. Alden is very good at keeping the reader in suspense as to the identity of the murderer, and also in bringing to life new characters in each new book in the series.
If you like a good puzzle, likeable characters who come off the page, and very little gore and blood, plus have a fondness for gardens and growing things, you’ll enjoy Alden’s Catherine Jewel mysteries.
The others are: The Blue Rose, Daylilies for Emily’s Garden, and Ladies of the Garden Club. Reading them in order is recommended. You can learn more at www.gloriaalden.com.
Gloria Alden lives in Northeast Ohio where her fictional town of Portage Falls is located. She's a member of Sisters in Crime and the Guppies (Great Unpublished, which now includes many published mystery authors).