- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
Beth AmosAuthor Dorothy Cannell brings back her witty and wily sleuth, Ellie Haskell, for another round of mirth, murder, and mystery in The Trouble with Harriet . With a cast of characters who are odd, eccentric, and vastly entertaining, and a plot that pokes delicious fun at things morbid and moribund, The Trouble with Harriet is an enchanting piece of high hilarity.
Ellie has planned a romantic getaway to France with her husband, Bentley -- a much-needed vacation for them both. The bags are packed, the kids are at their grandparents', and Merlin's Court -- Ellie's historic home in Chitterton Fells -- is under the watchful eye of Ellie's chatty helper, Mrs. Malloy. But before Ellie and Ben make good their escape, an unexpected visitor arrives: Ellie's long-lost father, Morley Simons, whom Ellie hasn't seen since she was 17. Morley isn't exactly alone, either. Tucked into a canvas bag he carries close to his heart is a rather unattractive urn that contains the ashes of his latest paramour, the platinum-blonde mystery woman who recently stole his heart before dying in a car crash: Harriet Brown.
Bereaved and bewildered, Morley tells his daughter that he has carried the ashes of his beloved here to hand them over to Harriet's relatives, who happen to live nearby. But as he tells more of the story surrounding his all-too-brief love affair with Harriet, Ellie becomes suspicious. First of all, Harriet told Morley she lived with reclusive friends who had no phone and wanted no visitors. She never gave him the address and never let him visit there. Plus the circumstances surrounding her death seem a bit contrived and unusual. Ellie can't help but wonder if her father hasn't been set up as a patsy in someone's elaborate and illegal scheme.
Ellie tries to ignore her suspicions at first, still hoping to get away with Bentley, but it soon becomes apparent that the trip must be postponed. Things get even more complicated when Ellie takes her father -- and Harriet's ashes -- along on a trip to the estate of Lady Grizwolde and her elderly husband, Sir Casper, where Ellie has been hired to do some interior decorating. Just before arriving at the estate, Ellie nearly runs over the absentminded vicar Reverend Dunstan Ambleforth, who is lurking among the nearby ruins of Saint Ethelwort, the patron saint of virility. Then, after Ellie convinces Morley to leave Harriet in the car while they go inside, the vicar decides to "borrow" Ellie's car and promptly disappears, along with Harriet's remains.
When she returns home, Ellie is forced to stall Harriet's dourly humorous cousins while hoping the vicar will show up. The situation takes a turn for the worse with the unexpected arrival of Ellie's kleptomaniac aunt, Lulu, who drops in for a visit and some rehab time. Accompanying Lulu is an all-too-convenient benefactor who gave her a lift from the train station, a gentleman named Mr. Price, who later demonstrates an unusual knack for showing up in the right places at the wrong times. By the time Morley's recent landlady, Frau Grundman, shows up for a visit and to make some goo-goo eyes at Morley, Merlin's Court is starting to look like a hotel for the eccentric. About the only person who isn't staying there is Harriet, who returns for a brief spell, only to disappear once again.
With a passing nod to Alfred Hitchcock and an outrageous plot that zips along like an episode of the "Keystone Kops," The Trouble with Harriet is a comically convoluted tale of love, lies, and larceny sprinkled with a dash of murder. Not even Ellie's chef of a husband could whip up such a perfect recipe for fun.