Passing Strange Audio CD – Audiobook, Oct 2003
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Pour yourself a cup of tea, relax, and listen to this very British murder mystery, which methodically solves the murder of the village nurse, who is found strangled at the Almstone Flower show. Detective Inspector Sloan seeks clues as to opportunity, means, and, most perplexing, motive through painstaking interviews, crime reenactments, and deductions. The author plays straight with the listener. We all should have figured out who the villain was, but most likely few of us did. Reader Bruce Montague guides us through the investigation, making the town of Almstone believable and its many citizens real. His is a sensible portrayal with no falsetto-voiced females or plethora of country accents. He has a clear, well-modulated voice, which is easy to listen to, and his dignified delivery matches the cerebral nature of this mystery. D.L.G. © AudioFile 2002, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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She gave me for my pains a world of sighs:
She swore, in faith, 'twas strange, 'twas passing strange;
'Twas pitiful, 'twas wondrous pitiful:
She wished she had not heard it...
- _Othello, The Moor of Venice_ by William Shakespeare, Act I, Scene 3
Like Desdemona, Joyce Cooper was strangled, but the similarity appears to end there. Far from being the beautiful victim of a jealous rage, District Nurse Cooper was a homely middle-aged spinster who lived for her work; her only hobby was her post as Almstone's church organist. (All the chapters are named for organ stops.) So it was that she asked for the fortuneteller's tent at the flower show on the Priory grounds, since she didn't have time for fancy cooking or gardening, and liked being useful. But when the tents were struck at the end of the show, Joyce Cooper was found dead just the same.
Inspector Sloan has a murder that's out of the ordinary run of stranglings, where the greatest controversy of the show up to that point was why Ken Walls' tomatoes didn't take first prize. Almstone itself is a quiet village going through a growth spurt, where developers like Maurice Esdaile can make a lot of money if the new owner of the Priory will sell off some land. But who is the new owner? Richanda Mellows, daughter of the famous anthropologist killed in South America, is the heir - but she was brought up among the people her father studied, and her identification was stolen.
Did someone kill the local midwife because she could identify Richanda - or because she couldn't?
Lots of well-drawn characters and subplots here; as usual, Aird has given us a good book as well as a good mystery. Fred Pearson and his friend Ken Walls' tomato grievance is itself a small mystery, pursued by the Flower Show secretary. (Walls' pursuit of the perfect tomato, incidentally, is his way of living with a bad marriage.) One of Calleshire's recurring-character law firms, this time Terlingham, Terlingham, and Owlet, puts in an appearance as the executors of the Mellows estate. Aird also has fun with the Almstone attitude to newcomers and development, especially some of the wealthy newcomer farmers and the Preservation Society.
Not for those who need a good dose of violence amidst the harsh urban realities. Very much for the person who likes to listen to a puzzle in which the people are more interesting than the sound of falling furniture and crashing cars, and in which decent people act decently or foolishly in the way of common folk.
Aird's stories always conjure up images from my sojourn in England--small villages, insular societies, fabulous accents, and all. Those who don't understand British humor or slang may find her stories a bit heavy going, and be sure to bone up on your Bible, French, and Latin since she always includes quotes from at least one, if not all, the previous.