76. Mrs. Malory: Death of a Dean (also known as just Death of a Dean) - seventh in the Mrs. Malory series
by Hazel Holt
Oh, what a relief is it to read the Mrs. Malory books. Hazel Holt is a wonderful author who not only tells a good tale, but does so with really good writing. Her knowledge is vast, and I learn something new with each book. In this one, she quotes Pevsner in reference to a cathedral. There are also several references to various plays. Such things add enormously to a book, I think.
Her descriptions are sublime like this one of an office in the Deanery.
It was a largish room that also had stone walls and a vaulted ceiling. There was one large, arched window set in a massive stone frame, looking out onto the roof of the cloisters below. The whole tone of the room was medieval, ecclesiastical, monkish even, so it came as something of a shock to find that the main piece of furniture was a modern office desk on which reposed, as if on a shrine or altar, a very new, state-of-the-art computer.As I've mentioned before, one of the pleasures of reading cozy mysteries is that usually the murder victim is an utterly unpleasant person with rarely any friends or family who love him or her. That way, we readers can enjoy the detection work without even a pang of sadness for the victim! Occasionally, the person we know will be killed lives on for far too long, as in this book. The dean lives till page 107!
Another pleasure that often occurs in a cozy mystery is when the amateur detective is respected and even called upon by the 'real' detective or policeman who is investigating the case.
"I believe you are a friend of Inspector Eliot here at Taviscombe?"I feel this way when I'm watching television mysteries as well as reading books. I like to concentrate on the case at hand, and not get sidetracked by any infighting. I don't like it when a detective is antagonistic to someone who really is able to help and offer good information.
"Why yes," I said in some surprise. "He's married to my goddaughter."
"He tells me," the inspector continued, "that you have a very good eye for details and a very good idea about what makes people tick."
"Did he!" I exclaimed. "Goodness!"
"He said that you'd given him quite a lot of help on some of his cases, one way or another."
"Well, I did a bit, I suppose."
"I just thought," he said, "that if you do happen to notice anything, or if something occurs to you, then I'd be glad to hear from you ... "
Reading Mrs. Malory books is a bit like reading a long letter from a friend, telling of her adventures. I can imagine such things as this being noted in a newsy letter.
I was up about six-thirty the next morning. Both the dogs are getting old now and I like to let them out into the garden as early as possible.I don't know about you but I don't get many long letters anymore filled with such daily details, and I wish I did. Maybe if I wrote some, I would get some in return, but in the meantime, a book by Hazel Holt telling me of Mrs. Malory's life will suffice quite nicely.
I love street markets and am sad that so many nowadays consist merely of stalls of cheap clothing and cut-price household goods. Culminster market, though, I'm glad to say, retains much of its original charm and you can buy fresh vegetables with the red soil still clinging to them, local cheeses, lardy bread and the sort of heavenly fudge that you can positively feel destroying your teeth and bumping up your cholesterol level!
I had a bad night. For no apparent reason. Usually I sleep like a log, zonking straight out, my book often slipping from my hand and the light still on. ... I sat up in bed, put on the light and picked up my copy of North and South again. I read doggedly on for some time and gradually, soothed by the solid and familiar world of Mrs. Gaskell, I felt my lids grow heavy and slept at last.
Oh, and the case. Sheila Malory's actor friend David comes to stay with her for a while. He's having financial difficulties which may result in him losing his wonderful house in Stratford. His brother, Francis is the Dean of Culminster Cathedral, and though their relationship has not been a close one, and though Francis is a priggish, self-absorbed, demanding man, he hopes that perhaps this wealthy brother will help him out. When Francis dies, and it is found to be murder, David is a prime suspect. Mrs. Malory is positive her old friend couldn't have done it, and attempts to find out who really did the deed. There are many possibilities, including Francis' own wife and children, who have been under his thumb for years.
I loved this book, as indeed I do all the Mrs. Malory mysteries. I look forward to reading each book in the series, and then perhaps reading them all over again.