Readers who like traditional mysteries, especially in their cozier incarnations, will relish meeting Miss Felicity Prim. She is the central character in Steven Rigolosi's entertaining book, The Outsmarting of Criminals. While it's far too new to be considered a classic - it was published in 2014 - it has a good deal of fun with readers' expectations about what a classic mystery should be. As we've now reached that unfortunate time of year when it gets so hot outside that any extra exertion, whether physical or mental, is to be avoided at all cost, here's an extra for your weekend, a book that makes few demands on our minds even as it provides a pretty fair amount of pleasure.
Miss Felicity Prim, who enjoys reading classic mysteries herself, is an assistant in a New York City doctor's office until, while walking home one day, she is mugged and winds up with a broken arm. This thoroughly unpleasant experience makes her decide to change her way of living - and her job - and move to a country home and change her profession to - well - the outsmarting of criminals.
"How she admired the protagonists of her books, those worthy men and women of crime fiction! They did not work in a doctor's office ten hours a day, five or six days a week. They did not get mugged while walking along city streets and minding their own business. They took charge of their lives. When they encountered a mysterious situation, they took matters into their own hands. Uncooperative politicians, corrupt corporate raiders, overworked policemen, those who insisted that everything was perfectly lovely despite the heroine's fears: None of these stood in the sleuth's way. In the end, justice was served and the universe was restored to balance. Why? Because, by the end of the novel, the sleuth had used her superior intelligence - not common violence - to outsmart the criminal."
And so Miss Prim moves to a new home away from the city - and the first thing she discovers is the body of an unknown man lying in her basement. She is, quite clearly, shocked - but she also believes it will give her the opportunity to hone her amateur detective skills (with the surprising encouragement, I might add, of the local police).
I must say this is one of the gentlest mysteries you'll ever encounter - and it's quite entertaining as it celebrates some of the great mystery books of the past. There's a lot of low-key humor in the book as well, and keep an eye out for classic references. The book was one of two winners of last year's David Award from the Deadly Ink Mystery Conference. It's published by Ransom Note Press and is available in hardback and as an e-book. It's fun summertime reading.
Oh, by the way, there are no cats. But that's okay - Miss Prim does acquire a dog, a boxer named Bruno, who plays a significant role. Another tradition upheld!