Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Malice at the Manor (Penny Summers #2), by J. Marshall Gordon

Taylor & Seale Publishing, April 2018

Penny Summers, a former Navy public affairs officer now out of the Navy and starting her own landscape design business, has traveled from Maryland to North Carolina with her friend and teacher, Madison Lerrimore. They're there to visit Brantleigh Manor, the (fictional) last garden designed by Frederick Law Olmsted before his death. A secondary goal is for Madison to meet and reconcile with her former stepfather, Wayland Morgan, who has become a Civil War enthusiast and reenactor, and who works as a docent, impersonating Olmsted, at Brantleigh Manor. They're staying with Penny's great-aunt, Zelma Porter. Penny doesn't really believe in her aunt's claimed psychic abilities, despite the fact that she (Penny) has her grandfather, Zelma's late brother, Jack, in her head making comments and suggestions.

That sounds like a lot going on. It only scratches the surface. Madison's goal in meeting her former stepfather again isn't reconciliation. She's got a serious and legitimate grudge, regardless of what one thinks of her method of resolving it.

Wayland also has acquired other enemies. as a result of his maybe not completely above board Civil War collectibles business. Oh, and an acquaintance from the years following his abrupt departure from Madison's life may also be a factor. And let's not forget Wayland's partners in crime.

On top of all this, several of our major characters are having what might politely be called relationship issues.

There's a lot going on here, interwoven in interesting ways. It's a solid, enjoyable mystery, even if I did roll my eyes at Marylanders being referred to as "Yankees." Sure, in a purely technical sense in the context of the War of Southern Treason, yes, okay. But seriously? No.

(And yes, if anti-historical partisan dimbulbs are going to call it the War of Northern Aggression, yes, I'll be calling it what it properly is: the War of Southern Treason. If the dimbulb partisans want to acknowledge at least the basics, such as who started the war, then we can talk about returning to overly polite terms like "Civil War" and "War Between the States.")

Overall, even if that last paragraph is a bit cranky, I enjoyed it, and I'd read another in the series. Recommended.

I received a free electronic galley of this book from--probably the author, rather than the publisher. No guarantees; there's been a lot going on lately, and I've been distracted. In any case, I'm reviewing it voluntarily.