Top critical review
A 3.4 on a scale of 1 to 5, Good not Great
on August 7, 2003
"The Body in the Bonfire" once again features the indomitable sleuth, Faith Fairchild, minister's wife and suburban Boston caterer by day, Nancy Drew by night.
In this installment, Faith teaches a cooking class at a second or third tier boarding school in her New England town. She has a secret assignment, which is to find out who is sending racial slur messages to the one black student. The school is filled with a cast of colorful characters: a way too preppy good boy/bad boy student, the Russian wife of the headmaster, an intense guru like professor and so on. The plot thickens when someone shows up dead in the school's annual bonfire.
I always enjoy these books. However, I have found-particularly in this one-Hall throws out a lot of cliches. She does not offer much depth in her characters or in her story. For example, most private schools in New England today (even second and third tier ones) have more than one black student (many whose parents pay) as well as a number of Asian, Hispanic and other ethnic and religious minorities. Her depiction of Aleford,the boarding school, does not ring true in the early 00's. In addition, she loves to poke fun at the down-to-earth, Yankee frugality and sensibilities of her neighbors. Yes, her observations were true about 25 years ago. However, most New England towns are filled with a more diverse and sophisticated population in the early 00's than in her books. Finally, while she seems ever so concerned about political correctness throughout the novel vis a vis ethnic and religious minorities, she is beyond condescending to the blue collar female police officer. At the end of the book, Faith offers to help her with her makeup. Please, talk about noblesse oblige.
Still, this book is an enjoyable read. Plus, you get some very good recipes at the end.
I'd recommend this book to those who enjoy cozy mysteries and previous Page books. I wouldn't recommend this book to those who require too much depth in their mysteries (a la Elizabeth George) or books.