Reviewed by Wendy Hawkin
This is the tenth cozy mystery featuring Cait Morgan, a fifty-ish, marmite-munching, tea-drinking, Welsh-Canadian sleuth who works as a criminal psychologist at a B.C. university on a mountain I’m sure I attended. I recognize those inlet views. In fact, Ace’s dashes of local colour really pulled me into this book.
After travelling the world for nine books solving light, cozy international murders (yes, no slash and gore is possible) Cait and her ex-RCMP/Intelligence officer husband, Bud, become embroiled in a possible murder right next door to their home on Red Water Mountain. Their ninety-year-old neighbour, Gordy Krantz, is discovered dead. He’s recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and suicide seems plausible until the coroner’s report comes back and they discover that old Gordy had been dosed with hemlock.
In between bouts of cooking, cuddling her Labrador retriever, and watching Scandi-noir (who doesn’t love Scandi-noir?), Cait investigates with the guile of Agatha Christie by pretending she’s collecting information for the eulogy Gordy directed her to write in his will. An eccentric cast of locals, one of whom is a garden centre mogul, rounds out the suspect list.
Early on, Cait and her faithful husband Bud (I still don’t know who’s more faithful, Bud or the dog?) acquire a disgusting mattress full of Gordy’s journals and using her eidetic memory, Cait is able to sort and file his life story from 1954 to 1993 all in her mind. After conducting her polite investigations, Cait laments: “This isn’t a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma, as Churchill spoke of Russia; this is a maze of bricks walls, all ten feet high, with no apparent way out.” But get out she does. Cait Morgan is an impressive woman, as is Cathy Ace.
Ace has been shortlisted for the Bony Blithe Award the last three out of four years and won in 2015 for Best Canadian Light Mystery. Her writing is stellar. Details, references, allusions, expertly crafted phrasing, and serious subjects punctuated by wit and humour. Her references to local settings intrigue me. I deduced that the elusive Red Water Mountain must be on the north side of Lougheed Highway just west of Mission and craned my neck when I drove through the other day hoping I would see it and know. Before immigrating to Canada, Ace was a marketing specialist, speaker, and trainer. I’ve seen her present and she’s as lively and entertaining as her books. The Cait Morgan Mysteries have been optioned by the UK company Free@LastTV who produced MC Beaton’s Agatha Raisin books for TV.
Living in a rural community everyone knows their neighbours. Or do they? Is the eccentric single man you move in beside really the man he says he is? Or could he be a killer? A thief? An imposter? Is the woman offering you tea trying to get to know you or investigating you? How many bodies are buried outside your door?
The Corpse with the Iron Will is published by Four Tails Publishing.