Saturday, October 24, 2009

Mourning In Miniature - Margaret Grace


Mourning In Miniature
A Miniature Mystery
Margaret Grace
Berkley Prime Crime

Mystery/Cozy

Geraldine (Gerry) Porter is a widowed high school English teacher who spends her retirement making miniatures and enjoying every minute she can spend with her 11-year-old granddaughter, Maddie. One of her former students is Rosie Norman, who now runs the local bookstore. Gerry is not a little dismayed to hear that Rosie’s thirty-year high school reunion is coming up soon. Rosie was not terribly popular in high school, and asks Gerry to go to the reunion with her this year as emotional support.

Rosie has an ulterior motive for attending. It seems that she’s been nursing a crush on the school’s star quarterback, David Bridges, for all these years. In the weeks leading up to the reunion, she says he’s been sending her flowers, candy, and jewelry, while planning a romantic private reunion. Privately, Gerry has her doubts. The man lives in San Francisco, an hour away in traffic. If he was so anxious to reconnect, one might think he’d simply pick up the phone. But Rosie has her heart and expectations set on this. Her current miniature project is a room box, depicting the high school hallway where she and David shared their first and only kiss.

Despite her reservations, Gerry wants to be supportive, but she can’t help worrying about her friend and former student. Arriving at the first evening’s cocktail party does nothing to alleviate her concern. David greets Rosie casually and only in passing. The former captain of the cheerleading team is hanging on his arm, not so secretly sneering at Rosie. After a particularly humiliating encounter, Rosie disappears and doesn’t return to their shared hotel room that night. The following morning, she looks terrible, but says she feels better. Then comes the terrible news: David Bridges is dead, beaten with his own football trophy.

Gerry is a genuinely likeable character who always tries to see the best in everyone. She’s not foolish, she’d just like to believe in the goodness of people. Where others might have warned Rosie more forcefully, Gerry simply tries to be supportive, which makes perfect sense for her character. Given their friendship, it follows that Gerry would want to look into the situation in order to help Rosie, even when it starts to look pretty bad.

Maddie is present for much of the novel, and she’s almost a rarity in fiction: a child who acts like a child. She’s eleven, and sometimes she’s a little too grown-up and sometimes she’s a little girl. The whole family is close, but not overly so, and always there to support one another. Longtime readers will be interested to know that Gerry becomes re-acquainted with a man who was once the shop teacher when she taught English. He loves to create miniatures and has a granddaughter just about Maddie’s age.

All of this characterization is nicely woven into the mystery. I don’t know anyone who actually enjoys high school reunions, so the whole situation is ripe for drama from the outset. It brings together a now-diverse group of people who might still have unsettled scores from high school. It’s truly not that difficult to pinpoint “who done it,” but the story is much more involved than expected, and it’s a fun ride. Newcomers will have no problem starting the series here (see below for list of previous titles) and longtime readers will be happy to make a return visit to Gerry and her miniatures.

Rating: 7
October 2009
ISBN# 978-0-425-23080-0 (paperback)

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