Jane Darrowfield, Professional Busybody
Jane Darrowfield #1
By Barbara Ross
Author’s website: maineclambakemysteries.com
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie
Jane Darrowfield is a year into her retirement, and she’s already traveled and planted a garden. She’s organized her photos, her recipes, and her spices. The statistics suggest she has at least a few more decades ahead of her, so she better find something to do . . .
After Jane helps a friend with a sticky personal problem, word starts to spread around her bridge club—and then around all of West Cambridge, Massachusetts—that she’s the go-to person for situations that need discreet fixing. Soon she has her first paid assignment—the director of a 55-and-over condo community needs her to de-escalate hostilities among the residents. As Jane discovers after moving in for her undercover assignment, the mature set can be as immature as any high schoolers, and war is breaking out between cliques.
It seems she might make some progress—until one of the aging “popular kids” is bludgeoned to death with a golf club. And though the automatic sprinklers have washed away much of the evidence, Jane’s on course to find out whodunit.
What a delightful, solid first in this new series! I very much enjoyed it and am looking forward to more. Jane and the other characters, especially those at Walden Spring, offer a variety of personalities and backgrounds. The setting as drawn by the author has charm and history. The mystery is confounding; it seems there could be several suspects but narrowing it down to one is not easy. I was quite surprised at the full solution!
Jane has been retired from an upper management position just long enough to not enjoy having so much free time. She helped friends in recent months by intervening with gentle confrontations that her friends are uncomfortable doing. She plays cards regularly with the group she has been with for decades. One of the bridge players refers Paul, the executive director of nearby Walden Spring, a 55+ active living community, to Jane with a slightly more challenging problem.
There have been ongoing battles between two factions of people at Walden Spring. Mike and his biker friends are in control of the game room, and others are afraid to go in. Bill and his golf buddies appear to rule the golf course, and only a bribe can get a tee time unless part of his group.
Jane visited to see the dynamics, looking forward to a challenge. The steep fee she suggested to Paul doesn’t hurt, either! He wanted her to move into one of the guest condos on the property where prospective buyers stay to blend into the community to make recommendations. Jane learned a bit about the dynamics during lunch in the dining room. The tables of residents were divided as if they were in high school! There was the table of arts and dancers, where Evangeline, a friend of a friend of Jane’s sat. There was a table with 4 couples coming from the tennis courts, another for table for couples, yet another for single women. Mike and his biker friends took another table. Another is comprised of Bill, Doris, his lady friend, Candace, a lady who dressed in track suits, and several well-dressed and made up ladies. When a disagreement broke out between Mike and Bill, it quickly deteriorated to a food fight.
That afternoon, Jane went on a mission for her friend Phyllis. Phyllis signed Jane up for an online dating service with some characteristics of each lady. Jane is to meet four of the best candidates for coffee, then introduce the acceptable ones to Phyllis. The first three men were quickly eliminated. The fourth one, Harry, was a man who Jane wanted to get to know better for herself rather than Phyllis! Harry is the first man she has felt anything for since her divorce thirty years ago.
Jane moved into the guest condo at Walden Spring; the community is impressive. Late that afternoon, when having drinks with Evangeline and her friend Maurice, another spat broke out over the noise of the revving motorcycles of Mike and his friends. The next morning, Bill was found dead on the golf course. The sprinklers had been on all night, washing away any evidence that the killer might have left behind, and no weapon was found.
The residents are an eclectic group of folks, people from all walks of life. Jane was adept at getting to know people, including the realtor, head groundskeeper, and those who might have been closely affiliated with Bill. His wife was at the long-term care unit at the property, suffering with Alzheimer’s. We learn much about Bill as Jane asked questions about him and most of it isn’t pretty. Harry, who wants to get to know Jane better, is uneasy about her staying there, but Jane doesn’t want anyone try to take care of her.
This mystery is a page-turner, with humor, comradery resulting from decades of friendship, and community of those who live in proximity. I appreciate the average age group of the primary characters, their maturity, and their depth of character. I was surprised at the detective who wanted to visit to learn what information Jane gleaned as he kept an eye on her. This challenging mystery kept me guessing! The end brought several surprises, and all loose ends were tied up. I highly recommend this solid first in a new series!
*OBS would like to thank the publisher for supplying a free copy of this title in exchange for an honest review*