Jane Darrowfield and the Madwoman Next Door
Jane Darrowfield #2
By Barbara Ross
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie
Jane Darrowfield is using her retirement years to work as a professional busybody, with most of her business coming from her West Cambridge, Massachusetts, community. This time her client is right next door…
Megan, who’s purchased the house next to Jane’s, needs some help from her snooping neighbor. Megan’s been having blackouts, hearing voices—and feeling like someone’s following her. Are these symptoms of an illness—or signs that she’s in danger?
Considering the extensive security system in Megan’s house, it seems like she should be safe—yet she soon vanishes into thin air. Some think she’s run away, but would this ambitious young lawyer on the partner track really miss a meeting with an important client? And where’s Megan’s cat?
The mystery is about to deepen when the cat is finally located in a hidden panic room—and as Jane and the police look into Megan’s friends, family, and past, it may be time to sound the alarm… (from Goodreads)
This is one of my favorite cozy mysteries so far this year! I was very pleased at how complex the mystery became. I met Jane and her bridge-playing friends in the first book in the series and enjoy them immensely. A senior sleuth, Jane brings a calm to any situation, a direct result of years of upper management experience. West Cambridge in autumn through the eyes of Jane and her new client sounded very lovely, including the area around Harvard. Part of the mystery stunned me, something I would never have guessed!
Jane has a discreet “professional busybody” sign with her hours and “No Job Too Small” at her garden sidewalk. In the months since helping solve a murder and meeting her beau, Harry, she has had several small cases for local people. Her skills of reading others by their body language and simple observation are put to good use. Those skills and more will be vital to her new case.
Jane moved into the neighborhood forty years ago, keeping the house as part of her divorce settlement. At the time it was purchased, prices in the neighborhood were affordable for a young professional husband with a stay-at-home wife. In recent years, the huge homes have been gutted and flipped for exorbitant prices, being sold to foreign investors who use them as vacation homes. Many are vacant most of the year. The same development company purchases, upgrades with every imaginable amenity, and markets to a similar demographic. It is one of these homes that Megan, Jane’s next-door neighbor, purchased last year.
Megan came to meet Jane and hire her. She has unusual requests, including that Jane observe her life and advise if her experiences are real or symptoms of possible mental health challenges. These include things such as lights flashing at night until she opens her eyes, the garage door mysteriously being raised, and hearing voices that awaken her. They are almost nightly events, totally exhausting this young, ambitious attorney who is being considered for a partnership opportunity at her firm. She doesn’t think she is losing it, but rather that someone is stalking her and doing these things. Megan gives Jane permission to talk to her one close friend and colleague, Andy, and a one-time date she met online if Jane doesn’t tell them the reason for the questions.
Megan disappeared days later, and Andy called the police when, for the first time ever, she missed a very critical client meeting. The police detective, who knew Jane from past cases, called her after seeing her name and phone number on Megan’s board. They also called her father, who claimed that, when under great stress, Megan would disappear to unwind. Jane later went back to Megan’s house, using the alarm codes Megan gave her, after the police left. She wanted to search again for Megan’s cat, Wembly, who Andy and the police were unable to locate. She knew Megan would be devastated if the cat would starve or be injured and alone while she was gone. In the basement, she saw a light on under a wall of the wine room, and found – a panic room?
The detective called the alarm company, who could meet him and enter the panic room code. Inside they found a very hungry cat and one of Megan’s slippers, the mate to which was in the middle of her bedroom floor. The police were now able to upgrade Megan to an official missing person.
The characters are three-dimensional, many who I would enjoy knowing. They are an eclectic mix of people, including Jane’s neighborhood friends, the few people in Megan’s life, the property developer, and the alarm company. Each are described as necessary for their roles. Jane and her friends of a similar age are delightful in a way that only long-term friends can be. I don’t discount the younger people, such as Andy and the barista at Peet’s, who are also interesting and delightful.
The solutions to these occurrences were complex, from Megan possibly being stalked and the unusual happenings in her home to her disappearance. How many people were involved with these schemes? Plot twists kept me guessing who the bad guy(s) really was. Part of the answer is chilling, not something I’ve seen in mysteries thus far. There were a couple very startling revelations, and the finale was totally satisfying. I highly recommend this cozy mystery and look forward to many more books in this series!