Barb, Faye, and Retta return for the fourth of Maggie Pill’s Sleuth Sisters book, Sleuthing at Sweet Springs. While visiting her mother-in-law at her nursing home, Faye meets Clara, who claims to have been put into the home against her will and with no proper medical reasoning and asks Faye to help her. Her chief concern besides trying to get out of the home is for her “girls,” the dozen hens she keeps at her home. The three sisters who run The Smart Detective Agency do a preliminary investigation, only to find suspicious circumstances.
Clara’s realtor niece seems determined to get hold of Clara’s home, one of four that surround the Sweet Springs lake and each share a quarter interest in the lake. Clara, a professor emerita in microbiology, seems perfectly competent to the sisters, especially after they interview those who know Clara, until one day Faye visits Clara, only to find the woman with no lucidity and thinking that Faye is her niece. This is so unlike anything the sisters have encountered that they wonder if they might be mistaken.
The book contains several threads that may or may not tie in together. Another client may have a connection to this case. Also, Rory, the chief of police and Barb’s “someone,” has been facing a group of complaints about unprofessional behavior that keep accelerating, leading to concerns by all the sisters and a fun sting at the end.
The series contains a fun element in which Barb makes secret raids at night to fix the grammar on signs, which she calls “correction events.” Now that Retta has discovered her secret, she insists on going along, leading to “the battle of the Oxford comma,” which Barb believes in strongly but Retta ridicules. This leads to an ongoing series of entertaining texts between the sisters to try to prove their points. As a fellow grammarian, I really had a lot of fun with the battle and enjoy the correction events in all four books.
The book is narrated by each sister in turn, with each chapter written from the view of a different sister. This is fun when we get to see the way different sisters view the same incident. In the audio version, Judy Blue reads the part of Retta, while Anne Jacques reads Barb and Laura Bednarski reads Faye. The three women blend well together in their portrayals of each other. This is one series that I highly recommend you listen to rather than read visually. Hearing the different voices really makes the three separate narrators come to life.
Sleuthing at Sweet Springs, as in the other books in this series, contains so much more than just a fun mystery. It contains powerful lessons of the empowerment of women and of sisters, who have so many differences despite a common upbringing, working together to unite their gifts. It also deals with women’s relationships with the men in their lives. An inaccurate stereotype of feminists is that we want to live independently from men, but the reality is that many of us love the men in our lives. We just need to discern which men help to lift us up and which serve to bring us down. Each sister has her own unique relationship, each defined on her own terms that work best for her and her man. I really appreciate that about these books. While my favorite book in this series has to be the previous book, Murder in the Boonies, I still thoroughly loved this book and give it five stars.
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