Life in an assisted-living facility should be peaceful, shouldn’t it? It might have been so at Springfields in the village of Barrington, but that was before Ivy Beasley moved in.
Along with her friend Gus, her cousin Deirdre, and fellow Springfields resident Roy, Ivy has formed a private detective agency called Enquire Within. So far they’ve had only one case - and a non-paying one, at that. All the same, the quartet solved their first murder, and now Gus’s old friend from his mysterious past has asked Enquire Within to look into the mysterious death of an extortion victim in nearby Measby.
Within hours of being presented with that opportunity, Mrs. Alwen Wilson-Jones moves into Springfields. Strong-willed and opinionated just like Ivy, Alwen confides that she has been swindled out of a large sum of money but is reluctant to call in the police for fear her daughter will think she’s incompetent. Worse than that, it seems, are the mysterious phone calls Alwen receives from someone demanding money in exchange for his silence. Silence about what, Ivy wonders, but Alwen refuses to divulge her secrets and orders Enquire Within members to forget the whole thing.
It’s too much to drop, though. Ivy is as tenacious as she is prickly, and besotted Roy will go along with almost anything she proposes. As they probe into Alwen’s background looking for clues, the situation suddenly takes a dark turn, leaving all of them in more danger than they ever imagined.
Ann Purser has a unique style, with writing that is relaxed and sometimes rambling yet taut with suspense. While not a shoot-‘em-up mystery full of dead bodies and car chases, the plot unfolds logically and steadily. Purser takes the time to develop her characters, each one original and complex with secrets galore.
Unlikely protagonists though they are, the elderly residents of Springfields prove to be mentally sharp and fiercer than the average senior citizen. Romance is also a big part of the game here, and not the silly sort of relationships found in most such books, either; grown-ups take their canoodling with a large dose of common sense.
The Measby Murder Enquiry is a pleasant read, evoking St. Mary Mead and Miss Marple with its atmosphere of surface calm and hidden demons. It’s a solid book, cleverly plotted, and tightly-structured, with all the makings of a perennial favorite.