In The Odd Job by Charlotte MacLeod, the eleventh in the Sarah Kelling/ Max Bittersohn series, someone seems to want Sarah dead! First, two young men attempt to drive Sarah off the road. Then, Sarah gets word that Dolores Tawne, the real mover and shaker of the Wilkins Museum, has died and left Sarah executrix of her estate. Next, someone sends Sarah a rusty looking old hat pin the next day. Thus when Sarah learns that the medical examiner thinks Dolores has died of some kind of brain damage, Sarah realizes that someone has killed Dolores with the very hat pin mailed to Sarah.
Upon searching through Dolores’s effects, Sarah discovers keys to two safety deposit boxes. The first contains not only Dolores’s personal papers but also a large bunch of extremely valuable stick pins. However, it is the second that intrigues everyone, for no one has touched it in the 30 years since it was opened, despite regular payments for it. All it contains is an envelope with newspaper articles about a mysterious group of women who would stage “happenings” in the 60’s by appearing randomly in crowds wearing black dresses low on top and low on the bottom and large black cartwheel hats kept in place with hat pins that these ladies would pull out to use to torment people. These ladies even murdered several police officers after being arrested but before being identified.
When someone deliberately tries to hit Sarah by running a car up on the sidewalk she is using, with only the fast action of a brave police officer saving her from being killed, Sarah decides that she must go underground. This becomes especially important when an obituary appears in the newspaper about her, but fortunately with her name and Boston suburb home mis-written. Now she must stay alive long enough for someone to catch the criminal before that person can kill her.
Especially in light of the rest of the series, The Odd Job disappoints. It reviews in detail the developments of the previous ten books, as if wanting to make the book accessible to new readers, but in doing so, it spends too much time recounting the story of Sarah and Max, which I found very tedious.
Furthermore, the book does not take advantage of the strengths of MacLeod’s writing and of this series, namely her brilliant characters. In this book, Max is in Argentina recovering stolen paintings. Brooks and Theonia have taken Jesse on a training adventure and have no contact at all with Sarah in this book. And the effervescent Mariposa has had to rush to the deathbed of a favorite aunt in Puerto Rico, leaving Sarah alone with Charles at the house on Tulip Street. We do get to enjoy seeing Max’s sister, Miriam, and her husband, who take care of the nearly three-year-old Davie for Sarah. But the characters lack the shine I see in them in other books.
In addition to these disappointments, I was not very impressed with the plot of the book. The details left something to be desired, and the actions of the newly introduced characters failed to impress me.
The one thing I did enjoy about this book is the narration by Andi Arndt, who continues to do a good job in performing the books in the series.
Despite all these disappointments about this book, it was by no means a flop. I am just used to getting so much better from MacLeod that I began reading the book with already high expectations. Therefore, when giving it an overall summation, I give The Odd Job three stars.
The Odd Job is available now. To order from Amazon, click here.