Wednesday, December 26, 2012

WRACK AND RUNE by Charlotte MacLeod

If you are reading a book in which one of the families has named three of their sons Cronkite, Huntley and Brinkley and the main character has a cat named Jane Austin, you have to know that book’s going to be by Charlotte MacLeod.

At first, I thought MacLeod’s Wrack and Rune was over the top. Then the Norse trappings and the off-the-wall humor took me in. I’ve never read a cozy writer like MacLeod. The sillier the books become, the more humorous I find them to be.

The book begins with a gruesome murder. Someone kills one-hundred-and-four-year-old Hilda Horse’s hired hand with quicklime. Then a young inexperienced reporter writes a story about a Norse runestone on the farm.

People swamp the farm to see the runestone. They believe it carries with it a terrible curse.

There are other “accidents.” Hilda and her nephew Henny struggle just to keep the farm afloat. Developers are after them to buy the land and build condominiums on it.

Hilda calls in Professor Peter Shandy to solve the case. He uses his connections with the college to help run the hordes away. Finally he discovers the almost-unnoticed motive for the crime.

To make things more interesting, Hilda has an affair with a visiting Norwegian geezer.

The book has all the usual characters--Balaclava Agricultural College’s intimidating President Thorkjeld Svenson and his wife Sieglinde, Shandy’s friend Professor Timothy Ames (with whom Shandy developed a new kind of rutabaga making them both indescribably rich), and Shandy’s new wife Helen.

Again MacLeod fills the book with literary references. She uses some fewer of her usual allotment of archaic words. And she tells a zany story.

I find these books to be great fun.

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