The Marsh Madness

A Book Collector Mystery, Book #4

By Victoria Abbott

ISBN 9780425280348

Author’s website:

Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie



The national bestselling author of The Wolfe Widow presents another spine-tingling mystery featuring rare book collector Jordan Bingham and some Ngaio Marsh first editions worth killing for…


Jordan works hard to improve Vera Van Alst’s collection of classic detective stories. So when Chadwick Kauffman—heir to the Kauffman fortune—offers a very good price on a fine collection of Ngaio Marsh first editions owned by his recently deceased stepfather, she is thrilled to meet with him at his fabled summer estate, Summerlea.


The next day, Jordan and Vera are shocked to read that Chadwick has died in a fall from the grand staircase at Summerlea. But when the picture in the paper is of a different man, it becomes clear that the ladies are victims of a scam. And they’ll have to unmask the imposter fast, because someone is trying to frame them for murder…



Jordan Bingham has what seems like a plum job to we bibliophiles.  If one is saving money for grad school, working as a live-in assistant to a rare book collector doesn’t sound bad!  It does have benefits:  Private attic room with adequate space and privacy, quaint, small-town living, all the food that one could possibly eat from a dear, feisty Italian lady, time to visit family and friends.  A climate controlled library with rare and valuable books.  There are downsides to any job, however.  The “boss”, Vera Van Alst is hated by most of the people in town, and she succeeds at being an intimidating old lady. She is a sourpuss at times, but many disabled, frail folks can be accused of that.  Oh, and there are cats, which I would typically see as an upside, except there is a good cat…and a bad, snarly, clawing cat.  They look alike; one doesn’t always know which cat is in one’s room.  Sometimes the people in town tend to judge Jordan based on her employer, making it hard for her to do a deal to get the books Vera seeks. There is that little thing about murder…People just seem to get murdered around there.  That might make all those pluses go out the window for many.  Unless, like Jordan, one has an eye for detail and the ability to think logically based on the way her favorite classic detectives have solved mysteries.  For example, like Dame Ngaio Marsh’s hero, Inspector Roderick Alleyn.

Chadwick Kauffman, the ultra-wealthy heir and end of the Kauffman family line, wanted to sell a very fine first edition set of Dame Marsh’s mysteries.  His people had approached Vera to see if she was interested.  Jordan and Vera would attend a luncheon at the Kauffman family summer estate, Summerlea, inspect the set of books and pay cash for it.  All went well, the estate was amazing, the deal done.  Kauffman’s butler and personal assistant seemed a bit ‘off’, and Kauffman even seemed…reptilian.  It seemed surreal when the news broke that Chadwick Kauffman had died at the estate sometime after they left.  Then, the police came to their door.

Jordan had grown up in the care of three beloved uncles who adored her.  They had unique ideas about the law, the police, and how to break one and avoid the other.  Jordan was the first in her family to ‘go legit’, yet any cop other than her friend Smiley coming to the door was not good.  Vera and Jordan were stunned that they were the chief suspects in Kauffman’s death.  Well, them and Uncle Kev.

I really love the Book Collector Mystery series; The Marsh Madness is the 4th and to me, the best to date.  It can be enjoyed as a stand-alone cozy or as part of the series.  Kudos to the cover art designer; even if the author is not a new one for me, it is very appealing (especially Walter, the Pug).  The Cast of Characters listing is wonderful; I wish every author included one. The recipes look like fun for those of us who enjoy cooking.

Jordan is someone I almost envy for her job with Vera, her intelligence, and her acting and people skills.  Reading this as a first person mystery quickly drew this reader in, showing who she is and leading me to genuinely like her.  We ‘meet’ the other characters through her eyes, most of whom she views with optimism, capitalizing on their good traits and ignoring some of the less pleasant.  Through her eyes, her uncles and their significant others are delightful, even…normal.  Her instincts are better honed with each solved murder, and she diligently seeks the bad guy/ gal.  Who, by the way, was a surprise to me.  Without her unique background, neither the reader nor the police could find the real ‘who’ or the ‘why’ behind the murder.  The complexity of The Marsh Madness appeals to this reader, guaranteeing that I’m already waiting for the next one to publish!  The writing style is such that this reader can stay in the story and savor it no matter how badly I want to flip the pages and get to the denouement!  It is the feeling of the location, the adventures with Jordan as she goes after clues and the bad guy/ gal, it is even Vera’s ‘tude that makes the journey more fun than the destination.

While reading this, I realized there are far fewer “classic” detective writers whose works are still acclaimed than there are mystery writers publishing today. The Book Collector Mystery series is one that I would like to think will be sought after by at least one or two future generations.  I highly recommend The Marsh Madness to readers of all ages who appreciate excellent writing, exciting plots, and fun, small-town people.  It can also enjoyed by those who appreciate ties to the classic detectives who they may not yet have read.  Dame Marsh might even gain a new generation of readers, solidifying Victoria Abbott’s presence in classic suspense literature.