PRIDE V. PREJUDICE
by Joan Hess
April 2015 by Minotaur Books.
Reviewed by Tony Burnett.
With three dozen titles to her name, Joan Hess has found a comfortable niche in the cozy mystery genre. Pride v. Prejudice is her latest installment in the Claire Malloy mystery series. The story is set in fictional Farberville where Claire owns the town’s bookstore. Though I’m not familiar with the 20 tome series, she apparently solves major crimes that the local bumbling constabulary find overwhelming. This doesn’t make her popular with the law enforcement personnel. In this installment, what seems to be an obvious open and shut murder case, turns out to involve love, lust, organic farming, and the graying remnants of a 1960s protest group secretly living in the community. The plot is appropriately complex, as is Claire’s relationship with her teenage daughter and new husband who happens to be the Deputy Police Chief. Unfortunately for the story, the husband only makes rare appearances in the narrative and tends to be a passive supporter of Claire’s antics.
The story is written with a healthy dose of the dry humor common to this genre. There are an abundance of quirky characters: rogues, rapscallions, bad guys with good hearts and good guys with bad attitudes. Though the characters aren’t deep, they are eccentric and comical. However, they all seem to speak with the same antiquarian inflections and outlandish observations. This is endearing initially but eventually becomes predictable.
The book was a quick and easy read, one for the beach or possibly a weekend business trip where the goal is pure entertainment. I found myself chuckling out loud at some of the situations, raising eyebrows at some of the plot twists, and I finished the book with a feeling of satisfaction that the multiple threads of the unraveling plot had been satisfactorily tied up.
If I had to describe Pride v. Prejudice in one word it would be “quaint”. Anyone of any age can read the book without fear of being offended. It never bogs you down but keeps the reader turning pages. Following Claire through this adventure as an observer is a sweet kind of fun.
Tony Burnett has been a member of the Writers’ League of Texas since 2010 and currently serves on the Board of Directors. His recent story collection, Southern Gentlemen, has been receiving positive reviews. He resides with his trophy bride, Robin, deep in the heart of Texas.