In her first book, Deadly Nightshade, Cynthia Riggs introduced us to one of fiction's most delightful - and most realistic - "circumstantial detectives" - an ordinary civilian whom circumstances thrust into the role of sleuth. Victoria Trumbull is as believable a feisty 92-year-old as you can imagine, with all the expected aches and pains and a refusal to let them stop her from enjoying her multifarious activities.
A native of the Massachusetts island called Martha's Vineyard, whose ancestors sailed from its shores generations back, Victoria knows more about the island and its people, then and now, than anyone else living. The knowledge has helped her solve one murder and earn her own baseball cap emblazoned with "West Tisbury Police Deputy," and the job that goes with it.
Of course she knows Phoebe Eldridge; a short-tempered woman who lives alone, dislikes her granddaughter intensely and won't even mention the name of her son, a Vietnam vet who disappeared some years before. It's Phoebe's rancor as much as any desire for money that leads her to sell the family land to a developer who comes up with what seems like an offer she doesn't want to resist.
The Conservation Trust enlists Victoria, as someone who will not be suspected, to search that land for an endangered plant, any endangered plant, because the state prohibits bulldozing rare plant habitats. Victoria is delighted to add another purpose to her daily walks. She enlists an eleven-year-old after-school assistant, and with the "Endangered" list in her hand, she begins her search. Her first find, though, is the body of one Montgomery Mausz, the developer's rather dubious attorney.
There are plenty of suspects, but deputy Victoria (don't dare say "honorary deputy" to Victoria's face) hasn't forgotten her first task and is rewarded by the discovery of a little nest of cranefly orchids, which puzzle Victoria by appearing to change shape. In the course of this botanical detection, Victoria and her assistant are treated to adventures that delight the 92-year-old as much as the pre-teen, even though they give both of them more scares than they had bargained for.
This charming story, with its share of thrills and suspense, will have readers crossing their fingers and hoping the sea air, home-baked beans, and a vital interest in what goes on around her will keep old Victoria Trumbull going for a long, long time.
About Cynthia Riggs
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Published May 10, 2002
by Minotaur Books.
Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Literature & Fiction, Business & Economics, Biographies & Memoirs, History.