The Skeleton in the Closet
“Whatever happened to Marion Chesney?” My sister Anne, who is The Pickiest Reader In The World, but loves Marion Chesney asked me that question a while back. Also, a few weeks ago, several AAR reviewers mentioned Marion Chesney and how much they enjoyed her wonderful light traditional Regency Romances. Marion Chesney is still writing but has moved from Regencies to cozy mysteries which she writes under the name of M.C. Beaton. She has two long running series, the Hamish Macbeth and Agatha Raisin series, both of which are lots of fun – even Anne agrees with me there. Romance lovers might want to check out her latest, stand-alone mystery, The Skeleton In The Closet, which features a mystery with more than just a touch of romance.
Fellworth, (Fell) Dolphin is 38 years old, a virgin whose dominating parents have sucked all the youth and spirit out of him. As a young man, Fell was forced to give up his dreams of travel, and a university education and go to work as a waiter when his father died. When Fell comes home one day to find his mother dead, he is astonished to find he is heir to a very large sum of money. Then, as he is going through his mother’s things, he finds even more money in a secret cashbox, as well as a picture of people he does not know.
When Fell’s nagging aunt comes by offering to move in and take care of him, he panics and tells her he is engaged to Maggie Partlett. Maggie and Fell are casual friends from work and she, like Fell, has been kept down by her horrid family. When Fell tells Maggie what he has done, she agrees to move in with him as his fiancee. They will remodel Fell’s house over the summer and then break up. By then, auntie will be gone and out of Fell’s way.
But where did all that money come from? Fell’s father had worked on the railroad and there had been a robbery years ago where a lot of money had been stolen from a train and never recovered. Was Mr. Dolphin in on that robbery? Who are the people in that picture and why did Mrs. Dolphin have it? What about Fell and Maggie? Can they live together for an entire summer and not grow closer than “just friends.”
This is a sweet book. Over the course of it, both Fell and Maggie blossom. I love an Ugly Duckling story and this is a realistic one. Neither Fell nor Maggie suddenly become swans, but they do become much better looking ducks. They are not perfect – Fell acts quite selfish and unthinking toward Maggie at times – but given that he had been so downtrodden his whole life it is quite logical that he would think of himself first.
While the two mysteries kept me interested enough, I couldn’t help being more intrigued by Maggie and Fell. I loved seeing a couple of downtrodden waifs grow some backbone and finally stand up for themselves. I especially loved the moment when Fell realizes how special Maggie is and finally, joyfully loses his virginity. If the ending is a bit melodramatic, well at least it is a happy one that wraps things up nice and neat. Fans of cozy mysteries who want a love story too, will welcome this book.