Getting Old Is Murder by Rita Lakin

People are dying at a retirement community in Fort Lauderdale–not an uncommon event when the residents’ average age is 70, surely? It’s only when Our Amateur Detective Protagonist’s best friend dies, shortly before her birthday and shortly after another reasonably healthy (for her age) resident also died shortly before her birthday, that Gladdy gets suspicious. Subsequent deaths under similar circumstances only heighten her suspicions and the fears of her friends.

Gladdy does go to the police with her suspicions, but as there’s nothing to indicate the deaths are other than natural, the police brush her off. Being more familiar with the people in question, Gladdy recognizes that some circumstances surrounding the unfortunate events do not fit what she knows of her friends, and attempts to investigate on her own amidst the usual social whirl of arranging shopping trips when she is the only one amongst her friends who can still drive, selecting restaurants based on the tastes and medical needs of the diners, forgetfulness due to age and physical ailments of a minor nature. Given that she and her friends are a bunch of nosy little old yentas, it’s no wonder the group of them figure out whodunit streets ahead of the plods in the police department.

This isn’t a complex mystery with an intricate plot by any means; good guessers will almost certainly figured out who the fall guy is and who the actual murder is easily enough. The killer and methodology is implausible. The characters are too broadly drawn for those of us who are unrelentingly sophisticated readers. The yiddishisms are laid on a bit thick for gentile readers. But then is that why fans of the subgenre read most cozy mysteries? No, not by a long shot, judging by the success of the Hannah Swensen, Goldy Bear and Cleo Coyle series. I think this first book in the series worth it just for the scene in which Gladdy pays some teenaged hoodlum thugs to break into her car after she’s locked her keys in the car but doesn’t have time to wait for the auto club to come. More importantly, I appreciate the fact that the police initially do not believe Goldy’s theories–frankly, it was only Miss Marple’s friendship with personnel high up the hierarchy at Scotland Yard that prompted the police to listen to her at all, and amicably shooing what appears to be a scatty little old lady with dubious theories away after listening (more or less) respectfully to one’s elders is by far the more plausible reaction. The fact that she turns out to be right in the end is irrelevant on first blush.

Rather it’s a perfect example of the “mind candy” subgenre–there are representatives fitting this description across the fiction board, though some genres seem to be disproportionately represented…nevertheless, pretty much everyone to whom I’ve ever spoken has on occasion read just such a book, and enjoyed it. These are the books when we want light entertainment, when we don’t want to think too hard about the book (indeed it’s often better if you evaluate the plot at all) but want a bit of distraction or amusement to fill an otherwise empty hour.


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