Brought to you by OBS reviewer Daniele
As Thanksgiving approaches, Jordan Bingham is grateful for her job researching rare books for Vera Van Alst, the infamous curmudgeon of Harrison Falls, New York. But when an uninvited guest makes an appearance, much more than dinner is disrupted—and Jordan is thankful just to be alive…
Vera Van Alst doesn’t normally receive visitors without appointment, but she agrees to see the imperious Muriel Delgado upon arrival. Shortly thereafter, Jordan is told that her position is being terminated. Evicted from the Van Alst House, Jordan is determined to find out what hold Muriel has over her erstwhile employer.
It seems Muriel has designs on Vera’s money and property—not to mention a particular interest in her collection of Nero Wolfe first editions. When Jordan discovers a deadly connection between Muriel and the Van Alst family, it’s up to her to put the house in order and stop a killer from going back to press. (Goodreads)
The Wolfe Widow is the third installment in the Book Collector series and centers around Jordan who manages Vera Van Alt’s rare book collection. She is the first of her family to go straight although she is not above donning a disguise, telling a little lie, or committing a bit of breaking and entering if it serves her purpose well. Vera is essentially a hermit, disabled, and the most hated person in town. The community blames her family for the downturn in its economy and all the trials that followed. Even so, Jordan has become fond of her curmudgeon employer and loves her job dealing with the rare books and the small rooms she calls home in the mansion.
It is ten days before Thanksgiving, and everything is status quo at the Van Alst house until the doorbell rings unexpectedly during dinner. Muriel, a mysterious woman from Vera’s past stands before Jordan, and Vera, who never agrees to see anyone, immediately goes behind closed doors with Muriel. The next morning Jordan is blindsided when Vera fires her without warning and demands she move out immediately. Jordan is devastated, and to make matters worse her usual support system, consisting of her best friends, boyfriend, and uncles, is MIA. Even her Uncle Kevin and the Signora Panatone, who also work for Vera, have been told not to contact her. Jordan decides something terrible is going on and vows to uncover what hold Muriel has over Vera, save Vera, and get her job back. The more she digs into who Muriel is and her past, the more dangerous it becomes, and Jordan is victim of a hit and run making her investigations that much more difficult. And, it becomes harder to know who to trust.
I enjoy Jordan’s character but have always found her nefarious family a little awkward. It is convenient for her to have connections who loosely interpret the law, but still. Most of the characters from the previous books (her friends, boyfriend, and uncles) are mostly absent in this adventure, and I do not really see the point. Though Lance and Tiff explained themselves at the end, I found the uncles not satisfactorily accounted for. Was it so that Jordan could prove that she can handle things on her own? I appreciate that Kevin and Signora help Jordan out as much as circumstances allow, but they are the most annoying characters in the book. I guess that Signora is intended to provide a bit of humor, but I just do not get her. Kevin, who I think is supposed to be charming and endearing, is just plain unbearable in his cluelessness. I found myself losing patience with him just as Jordan did. I did like getting to know Mr. and Mrs. Snow. The intermingling of a past crime with the present mysterious circumstances was well done and interesting. I was not expecting one of the characters who was supposedly Jordan’s friend to end up on the dark side. My heart always aches a bit when the characters have misplaced trust and end up hurt.
Each book in the series has a classic mystery “theme” from which the book titles emerge. Although it helps to be familiar with them, it is not necessary to have read them. I admit that after I read each installment I am tempted to read (or reread) the books featured. For example, this tale includes Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe mysteries.
I liked this book and would recommend it to readers who like a strong female protagonist and those who appreciate the nod to rare book collecting.