In Sleuth Sisters by Maggie Pill, Faye longs for some excitement in her life, so she convinces her older sister, Barbara, now retired, to partner with her in creating The Smart Detective Agency. The two turn down their first two prospective cases: someone convinced her “missing” brother has been kidnapped and brainwashed by Congress and a man afraid of the aliens who have infiltrated his possessions and clothing. So they are thrilled when a real case finally comes their way. A young woman wants them to find her brother, who fled when accused of his wife’s murder. When youngest sister Retta learns that her two older siblings have left her out of their detective agency, she gets offended and determines to snoop on her own, using her contacts as a socialite and the well-known widow of a police officer.
The plot of this mystery is interesting, but what makes the book especially creative is that each chapter is narrated by one of the sisters, each one having her own strong voice, which really impressed me. I particularly enjoy seeing the way each woman explains an action from her own perspective. The narration never overlaps chronologically, so we don’t get bored by repetition, but we still gain insight into each woman’s nature as they interact with each other, giving a perfect example of unreliable narrators. For example, Barb insists on not telling Retta about the detective agency because Retta, a very dominating woman, will try to take over. Retta sees things very differently, believing that her sisters, Barb in particular, have no idea how to deal with society. I also liked the way the book shows middle-aged women as capable and able to have a life after retiring, becoming widowed, or having grown children.
This is one book that especially benefits from being absolutely on audio. Anne Jacques reads the part of Barbara, Laura Bednarski reads the part of Faye, and Judy Blue reads the part of Retta. The publisher made an excellent selection of these three women, with each narrator embodying the part she reads.
Sleuth Sisters has a strong mystery plot, but beyond being a detective novel, the book is one that celebrates women, sisterhood in particular. It honors the differences among women, with the three sisters learning that they are strongest when they pool their strengths. I give the book four stars.
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