When 28-year-old Agnes Blythe, the contented bifocals-wearing half of an academic power couple, is jilted by her professor boyfriend for the town Pilates instructor, her future is suddenly less than certain. So when her glamorous, eccentric Great Aunt Effie arrives in town and offers a job helping to salvage the condemned Stagecoach Inn, what does Agnes have to lose? But work at the inn has barely begun when the unlikely duo find the body of manipulative Kathleen Todd, with whom Agnes and Effie both have recently had words. Words strong enough to land them at the top of the suspect list.
The pair have clearly been framed, but no one else seems interested in finding the real murderer and Agnes and Effie’s sleuthing expertise is not exactly slick. Nevertheless, they’re soon investigating a suspect list with laundry dirtier than a middle school soccer team’s and navigating threats, car chases, shotgun blasts, and awkward strolls down memory lane.
My Thoughts: Bad Housekeeping is a delightfully fun cozy mystery that brings realistic characters and hilarious situations to the reader. I liked Agnes right away, although some of her behavior made her seem a bit scatter brained, like leaving the apartment she had shared with Roger, the professor, without her wallet, contacts, and phone charger. She also left most of her clothes behind, so in the early scenes, she is wearing ill-fitting outfits she finds at her dad’s house, clothes she wore in high school.
She spends several days without bothering to rectify this situation, and when she and her Aunt Effie start trying to figure out who framed them, they don’t seem to plan their actions very well, either, leading to skirmishes with the pot-growing farmer who is shooting at them when they try to leave his property; altercations with assorted others; and many other ill-timed encounters.
There are some run-ins with her ex, Roger, while he is out and about with his new Pilates instructor girlfriend. He seems so pompous and egocentric, seemingly rubbing her nose in his new relationship that I had to wonder why she is grieving for him at all.
As the duo of Agnes and Aunt Effie take off in pursuit of clues, their actions seem so random and unplanned. They keep following an assortment of suspects with no real idea of possible motives, and their pursuits don’t really point anywhere. Despite their erratic efforts, I found myself enjoying them as they tried to find answers.
Then, suddenly, their efforts look like they are leading somewhere. I could not stop reading, and just when Agnes seemed to have her eye on the killer, an unexpected twist at the last minute brings her face to face with someone else…and in grave danger. A fun read. 4 stars.