Let's face it. Even if you have a career as a highly successful strip-tease artist (circa 1942), it is a little daunting to be told, by your own mother:
"You either bury that body in the woods tonight, or you finish your honeymoon without your mother."
Well, to make a long story a little bit shorter anyway, Mother finally decided to do the job herself. Which did confuse the local police, who were already confused by all the the assorted theatrical folks traveling in the small honeymoon trailer built for two. There were the bride and groom, of course, but there were also a couple of burlesque comedians. And a couple more strippers. Assorted dogs, a monkey, some guinea pigs. And, of course, Mother.
Welcome to the rather bizarre world of "Mother Finds a Body," a 1942 mystery written by one of the reigning queens of the old burlesque strip shows, Gypsy Rose Lee. If you remember classic Broadway musicals, you may remember "Gypsy," a musical based on Gypsy Rose Lee's memoirs, a play that was very much about Gypsy's mother.
Lee also wrote two mysteries, both combinations of screwball comedy and bizarre crime fiction. (At least, I certainly HOPE this was fictional!) "Mother Finds a Body" was the second of the two books, and it's both funny and, more than occasionally, jarring. It's also the subject of this week's audio review on the Classic Mysteries podcast. You can listen to the entire review by clicking here.
The titular body, apparently, belongs to the best man from Gypsy's wedding, which took place recently with a ship's captain officiating - there's some speculation about the validity of the marriage, but everybody seems inclined to think that it did take place. Nobody really knew much of anything about the dead man, despite his having been pressed into service for the wedding. At any rate, he turns up dead - and mother, who finds this kind of thing to be a nuisance, decides to go out herself and bury the body in the woods.
As I said earlier, the police don't seem to mind all that much - although they are a little disturbed by the discovery of a SECOND body in the woods. That's about all I can say without spoilers about the complicated plot, except to promise that there is much to laugh about - and more than a few horrifying scenes as well. Hey, if all those people can get along in a honeymoon trailer built for two, there's no reason why you can't travel with them for a while. The ride may be a little bumpy, but it can be a lot of fun, and it's never dull.
"Mother Finds a Body" has been brought back into print by the Femmes Fatales imprint of the Feminist Press at the City University of New York. If you prefer, there's also an edition for the Amazon Kindle.
Thanks to Sally Powers at the I Love a Mystery Newsletter for providing the book, and granting permission to rework this review of "Mother Finds a Body" from the one I wrote for her August newsletter.