Wednesday, December 6, 2023

DEATH WRITES, sixth Ben O'Keeffe/Inishowen Mysteries book

(Inishowen Mysteries #6)
Oceanview Publishing
$27.95 hardcover, available now

Rating: 4.5* of five

The Publisher Says: A local author dies on stage at a literary festival. Ben O'Keeffe has to sort through his complicated estate—and find his murderer while she's at it.

Solicitor Benedicta “ Ben” O' Keeffe and her boyfriend Police Sergeant Tom Molloy race to Dublin after hearing that some strangers had moved in with Ben's parents. When they arrive, only Ben's parents and their strange lodger remain, but come morning the lodger has left. Not wanting to leave them alone, Ben persuades her parents to come and stay with her in Inishowen.

In Glendara, preparations are underway for Glenfest, Glendara's literary festival. Phyllis Kettle, the local bookshop owner, is especially pleased to have persuaded Gavin Featherstone, the local best-selling recluse writer, to take part.

The festival begins, and an eager crowd awaits Featherstone's appearance on stage. He is unexpectedly engaging, but when he stands to read from his new book, he stumbles and keels over on the platform.

Ben discovers that she holds Featherstone's will at the office, drafted by her predecessor. Soon, she's drawn into a complicated legal wrangle over the man's estate involving his family and the assistant who lived with him.

But nothing can yet be resolved, as a killer cannot inherit from their victim—and Gavin Featherstone's death was a murder.


My Review
: Workaholics Ben and Tom, two of Glendara's few residents, are on the trail of murder and gaslighting and elder abuse this time. I know the publisher insists these can be read as stand-alones, but they shouldn't be; there's too much texture in this weave to be fully experiencedin one small patch. That said, starting here won't leave you befuddled and confused. Just feeling like you're missing something, because you are.

The family dramas in this entry in the series are parallel: Reclusive writer in the clutches of manipulative "assistant" (about whom there is A Mystery) makes a bookend for Ben's parents' mysterious, controlling-in-a-quiet-way "lodger" (about whom there is No Mystery); the fact is, I see things like these plots delineate a lot here in my assisted living facility on a much lower-stakes scale. I was completely wrapped up in this story, these stories really, from giddy-up to whoa. The issues couldn't be more timely: using the loneliness and vulnerability of the older people who steadily make up more and more of the population for material gain. I really fail to see the problem, as I suspect I'm supposed to, in the case of a caretaker benefiting from the cared-for person's generosity. The less unclear issue is the dreadful misuse of the grief felt by parents whose children have died. This is truly beyond the pale to my mind, to manipulate these miserable, bereft souls for profit.

The stories are very much up to Author Carter's standards of immersiveness and detail-oriented storytelling. There are clues everywhere, and they aren't there by accident despite appearances (well done you, Author Carter!). What you got before, you'll get again, along with Ben and Tom doing their awkward best to screw up their relationship. The Garda are doing their bit, with Tom being promoted away from Glendara again, maybe. These two are very well-suited but they're also rubbish at relationships. In Ben's case, it's old traumas that lots and lots of therapy (which she isn't seeking) would be pressed hard to reduce the symptoms of; in Tom's, he's an Irish man (see previous parenthetical).

This being the sort of real-life drama that makes the factually very unusual occurrence of murder slide down easier. Very few of us ever come into contact with murder, but all of us relate experientially to relationship angst. The side characters, like this book's featured person Phyllis the bookshop owner, are more than props. The reason to read the series in order is exactly so that Phyllis will be building on her previous life, not just doing her bit for the plot of this story by arranging the book festival that we've never heard of before. That kind of grace note, that Phyllis is very much the kind of organizing, managing, busybusybusy person who absolutely *would* arrange a book festival, get national attention for it, and somehow also land up with a murder case during it, and your credulity would not feel even the slightest strain. The good people of Glendara, on the Inishowen peninsula, in the far north of the Republic of Ireland, are presented to us over the course of six books and counting, ready to enfold our attention and reward it with just the right level of domestic drama.

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