My rating: 2 of 5 stars
And that second star was mostly just because of Macleod's award winning career because this one was a giant misfire. Mom read most of Macleod's work back in the 80s and I read some (more of the Kelling & Bittershon series than Shandy's). After 30 years she decided to clear them off the shelves and I took them before they hit the donation box. To be fair this book is the second to last Peter Shandy book and written very late in her career which in many ways are strikes against it because I've noticed once you get a good mystery series going, win awards and suddenly the editors stop editing and let you do what you want. It definitely felt that way in this one.
It doesn't make a lot of sense. I've seen better, more believable Murder, She Wrote episodes (not knocking it, I loved that show). Sheriff Tupper looks like a rocket scientist compared to the cops in this one. Fair warning this one is going to be more spoilery of a review than normal because things need to be talked about (and it IS 25 years old at this point)
Professor Peter Shandy along with Professor Winifred Binks and President Thorjeld Svensson (all recurring characters and this must be the month for me to read about characters with Thor in their names) are out owl spotting along with a newcomer Emory Emmitt site engineer for the new field station Binks, new heiress, is building. I didn't realize this was supposed to be humorous until I saw some of the pro review blurbs (what was funny? the fat shaming? the mocking of someone they didn't think was as smart as them? I couldn't tell).
Emmitt exists mostly so the three recurring characters could act pedantic and mock the newbie owl hunter who quickly ends up dead in a net with his throat cut after following a 'snowy owl.' Yes, this is pre-CSI forensic craze era. In 1991 when this was printed DNA was only in use in the courtroom for 2 years but really? These three faculty members do the ENTIRE investigation. The cops show up and more or less just haul the dude off. Chief Ottermole doesn't do much of anything except seem surprised Binks and SHandy went up in the tree to investigate how Emmitt had been hauled up and dropped, something that is repeated in 2 chapters as if it were the first time Ottermole hears this (see what I mean about the editing).
And this is about the only thing Ottermole does the entire book other than get hypnotized in his own jail and lets one of the bad guys go. The cops in this are SO bad there is a point where one character is kidnapped, one is tied to a tree and another has his head bashed in (all in the same scene) and no cops show up. They're at dinner and will be by later. Okay, really? Does NO ONE say this is utterly unbelievable at any point during the editing process?
Shandy accompanies Binks (for some reason and the only one I can think of is Macleod was a young woman in the 30s and 40s and even though she tries to make Binks an independant woman she misses the mark entirely because Binks takes Shandy everywhere with her) to see her lawyer and financial officer where in she wants to dump her stock in Lackovite's all natural food (think the beginnings of the organic movement) because it uses crappy products (really? you have a sham healthy food company and you name it basically lack of vitamins?) and put all her stocks from them into the older, more respected mom and pop organic store, Golden Apples run by the Compotes (seriously, the punny names in this were more distracting than funny). Turns out she already more or less owns Golden Apples via her grandfather's inheritance. Sopwith, her advisor doesn't want to do this since Lackovite is a much bigger company (boring? yes but it's a key plot point. IN fact it's the ONLY plot point).
QUickly they learn Emmitt wasn't the site engineer and the other man they had been talking to about Emmitt, Farnsworth, is also a fake and a hypnotist and he escapes Ottermole (see above) after Shandy and Binks make a noose and tie him up. Yes you read that right, two college professors jump a total stranger because they think he's up to something (he is) and hog tie him and drag him to the cops.
Soon enough there is even more trouble with Binks two graduate workers, Viola Buddingly (the fat woman they like to pick on) and Knapweed Calthrop (yeah an environmentalist named Knapwee). There is a strange he said/she said where they both claim the other tried to force themselves on the other which goes nowhere. Even 25 years ago that kind of stuff might have been looked into by the college administration. Viola is then kidnapped and found by Svensson and Shandy (let me just say this is the most on-campus and free and well loved college president ever). And oddly enough a day or two later Viola is kidnapped and tied to a tree again, Binks is taken away and Knapweed gets his skull fractured.
At some point in this Shandy takes the time to actually be snide about Viola's hair because that's what we worry about in a kidnap victim. This is also the point where the cops refuse to leave dinner including Ottermole so Shandy and Svensson (since their wives aren't home which apparently had something to do with them being free to hang out together) get the call to the station where the kidnapping happened and they're the ones waiting for the kidnappers to call (because like I said, no cops bother)
Once they get the call and Binks manages to pass Shandy some clues he and Svensson go to rescue her which they do but manage to get set adrift in a tugboat in a storm which is fine because the blood of Vikings runs in Svensson's veins. He even manages to keep going even after the dam breaks while Shandy contradicts himself paragraph to paragraph (such as he doesn't want to start the oven for fear of fire then does so without any thought a page later). WHen they finally reach land the next day where people are sandbagging against the dam burst they get out but leave Svensson sleep on the boat because he had exhausted himself. Uh huh there's a high river, flooding etc but let's leave him sleep on the battered boat.
Do they go to the cops? No. Do they even call the cops? No. Why not? Because they learn they're in the town that's home to Golden Apples and she wants to see why they've been dodging her calls. And that's what they do because that's what all kidnapped heiresses in two day old clothing soaked by a storm do.
After that the thing wraps up in an equally ridiculous way. There is only one motive for this thing. Obviously Lackovite doesn't want her to withdraw her shares and wants to take over GOlden Apple. There is no other motive so the players (except one) are obvious since the beginning and how does Binks react when she learns her financial advisor was purposely working against her and is actually part of the conspiracy that leaves one man dead and another hospitalized? She keeps him on because he was so bad at cheating her he wouldn't try it again. Head meet desk (let's not forget that this dude will be going to jail but no one seems to recognize this).
The actual mastermind was a bit of a surprise because there was no build up to it. Oh Shandy knew from the beginning. He tells us so. Does he tell Binks? Svensson (who he has a better bromance going with than he does his wife)? Helen (his wife)? Ottermole? No, he never says a word (and he won't use a simple one when a huge one will do). And I'm still not entirely sure why Emmitt was killed or how he fell into a trap he helped set up. I assume he died because he was a moron.
There are better Macleod's out there. Even by late 80s/early 90s cozy standards this is sub par. Shandy and the rest read so stiff and ridiculous (Svensson's wife is railing against modes of dress common on campuses in 1991. I should know I was on one. You'd think it was 1943 the way she acted) that it was impossible to engage with them. For those old enough to remember Frasier when he was on Cheers, the way they talk made him sound like Sam and Woody. I don't mind looking up words (though I knew most of the big ones) I don't see three people all talking this way and using the same soft swears (By Scott!) or things like M'yes. IT was like a three headed person with no personality. I finished this because I needed an O for my alphabet challenge and it was under 200 pages mercifully.
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