Wednesday, February 19, 2014

EXIT THE MILKMAN by Charlotte MacLeod






If you enjoy a well-told cozy story complete with word play, humor, literary illusions, and just plain silly fun, you will probably enjoy Charlotte MacLeod's Exit the Milkman.

Balaclava Agricultural College's dairy professor James Feldster disappears. Then someone kills Feldster's wife.

Peter Shandy and his wife Helen are quickly on the case. Balaclava College President Thorkjeld Svenson sees to that.

Feldster is not who they thought he was. It takes Helen Shandy's friend to find that out. But Feldster couldn't be his wife's murderer. He was otherwise indisposed.

This story features a group of people with names like Knapweed Calthrop, Catriona McBogle, and Elver Butz.

And it all takes place at and around Balaclava Agricultural College in Balaclava, Massachusetts.

The setting is modern, but there's no telling exactly what the year is. There are no cell phones in this story. The local newspaper still develops its photographs from film. And the local police chief rides a bicycle.

It is almost impossible to describe the nature of Charlotte MacLeod's Peter Shandy books. Here is one quotation--

“Guthrie did tend to drop arboreal allusions into his conversations. The habit was quite understandable in the president of a forestry school. He honestly did not believe he would ever see a poem lovely as a tree, but that didn't mean he never gave a thought to the spreading chestnut under which the village smith used to stand, nor showed a fleeting inclination to hang his heart on a weeping willow tree.”

Using words like panjandrum, murrain, abattoir, cicerone, doyene, inanition, and others, MacLeod tells a hilarious story.

I started reading these books when a blogging friend suggested MacLeod's Rest You Merry, the first (and probably still the best) book in the series.

Years ago, I had a teacher tell me to avoid the word unique. “Few things are unique,” she said.

Charlotte MacLeod's Peter Shandy books are wonderful. They may even come close to being unique.

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QUOTATIONS FROM EXIT THE MILKMAN--

All libraries are beautiful to the book lover...
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There was too damned much importance floating around here all of a sudden, but what could a man do?
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Exit the milkman, on with the mulch.

2 comments:

Kelly Robinson said...

I'm not big on cozies, but I do enjoy word play. I wonder if she employs it enough for me to enjoy something outside of my preferred mystery subgenre?

Joe Barone said...

The word play is a part of the book, not at the heart of the book. These books are an acquired taste, I think. They are cozy-cozy.