The Evil That Men Do, by Jeanne M. Dams
Severn House Publishing, Ltd. 2011
I hate to be overly critical of an author who has brought me pleasure with other books, but this latest Dorothy Martin mystery doesn't work for me on multiple levels. The motivation behind Dorothy's involvement in the mystery is thin at best. The secondary characters aren't well developed, so I actually didn't care that they disappeared. There isn't a logical connections of events--Dam often seems to be "over-reaching" as the story moves from scene to scene in the narrative. The plot is slow moving--other reviewers comment it is more a travelogue than a mystery. Even Dorothy, who has been compared to Miss Marple and can be a very spunky and likable heroine, seems wooden and emotionally wobbly in this book. While the pace picks up toward the end, the believability factor becomes more far-fetched to me. By the end of the book, I even begin to weary of the scenic Cotswolds setting, certainly a strength of the novel.
Contrast this to Winter of Discontent, a 2004 Dorothy Martin offering from Jeanne Dams. I've read it twice, and I rarely read a mystery more than once. But I'm a sucker for mysteries set at Christmas so Dams hooks me with her first paragraph: "I looked at the calendar and sighed. Not only a Monday, but December eighth. Exactly seventeen days till Christmas and I had done almost nothing. No cookies had been baked, no cards sent, no presents bought, let alone wrapped."
When Dorothy and Alan's next-door-neighbor, the feisty and thoroughly likable Jane Langland, discovers that her former lover is first missing, then found dead, I understand perfectly that Dorothy must set aside her holiday preparations to help Jane get some answers. The town, the climate, the church all create an atmosphere for the book that pulls me in as a reader. The plot is more cohesive, better paced and believable.
Dams' first Dorothy Martin book, The Body in the Transept, published in 1995, won the Agatha Award for Best First Mystery and received critical acclaim, e.g., Publisher's Weekly wrote, "With her penchant for colorful hats, Dorothy establishes herself as a fresh, commanding and always genteel presence among female elder-sleuths of the '90s."
|Photo from killerhobbies blog. Click here to see this blog.|
In this photo of mystery authors, Monica Ferris on the left and Jeanne Dams on the right, we see that Dorothy Martin isn't the only one with a penchant for hats. Both of these authors of cozy mysteries enjoy modeling the latest additions to their wardrobes.
Dams, a widow, lives in South Bend, Indiana, where she also writes another historical mystery series set in the South Bend of a 100 years ago, featuring Hilda Johansson, a young Swedish housemaid, who works in the Studebaker home there.