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The Face on the Wall: A Homer Kelly Mystery Hardcover – June 1, 1998

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Viking; First Edition edition (June 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670876747
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670876747
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,105,683 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Jane Langton's pen-and-ink illustrations, which decorate the pages of her books about retired Massachusetts detective Homer Kelly and his historian wife Mary, are as apparently simple--and deliciously deceptive--as her words. Even if your mystery tastes run to the tough and hard, you'll have trouble avoiding the warmth, sharp wit, and clever detection that animate this series. "Homer Kelly had been Mary's husband for a long time," begins a typical Langton paragraph. "He was a big man with a coarse gray beard and a rough head of hair like the thick fur of a dog. His impulsive enthusiasms had often led him into absurdities in the past, but half a lifetime with a sensible wife had mellowed him a little. So had his experience with violent criminals." It's art that gets Homer and Mary involved in their 13th adventure, when an 8-year-old boy with Down syndrome is found murdered near a wall that Mary's niece has been illustrating with characters from fairy tales. The missing, abused wife of a nasty property developer is also part of the mystery, which the Kellys unravel in a suspenseful and thoroughly plausible manner. Other Kelly outings available in paperback include The Dante Game, Dark Nantucket Noon, Dead as a Dodo, Divine Inspiration, Emily Dickinson Is Dead, God in Concord, Good and Dead, The Memorial Hall Murder, and Murder at the Gardner. --Dick Adler

From Publishers Weekly

Langton's impish sense of humor enlivens this latest in her deftly illustrated Homer Kelly series (Dead as a Dodo, 1996), which is further enriched by modern parallels to ancient folk tales. Homer, a retired Massachusetts detective, and his sensible and sharp-witted wife, Mary, a historian, have full schedules: Homer aids young prisoners with legal problems, and Mary teaches fifth-graders at an exclusive private school. Yet there's always time to delve into local mysteries. In this case, the questions center around the missing and much-abused wife of a greedy land developer and the tragic death of Eddy, an eight-year-old Downs Syndrome child who was found, his skull crushed, at the base of a wall that Mary's niece Annie was illustrating with fairy-tale characters. Echoes of folk tales and nursery rhymes permeate every phase of the investigation: there are strong hints of Bluebeard, Hansel and Gretel, the Fisherman's Wife?even the Odyssey. Shrewd and persistent sleuthing in a tightly controlled plot and a group of feisty and eccentric colleagues combine to keep suspense high and lead to a conclusion that features a wonderfully loathsome 10-year-old?surely one of the most odious children created since The Bad Seed.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

More About the Author

I've written an awful lot of books. There are eleven for middle-aged children, mostly fantasies. The ones that have hung around the longest are "The Diamond in the Window" and "The Fledgling." The seventh in the series called "The Hall Family Chronicles" came out last spring, "The Mysterious Circus," and I've just finished writing an eighth, "The Dragon Tree."

All eighteen mysteries for adults have the same protagonists, Homer and Mary Kelly. Mary is the sensible one, but I confess I like Homer's rhapsodic flights of fancy. Most of their adventures happen in Massachusetts, but I've also sent them to farflung places I wanted to visit myself, like Florence, Oxford and Venice. Most of the novels are illustrated with my own drawings, but "The Escher Twist" has ten prints by the mysterious Dutch artist M. C. Escher, and the two historical mysteries are illustrated with nineteenth-century photographs.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 18, 2001
Format: Paperback
Caution: This book deals with some pretty ugly subjects including spousal and child abuse, and contains much coarse and foul language. The crimes are pretty graphically described, which may also make this book a little too gritty for sensitive readers. As a movie, this material would definitely earn the book an R rating.
The Face on the Wall is the most subtle and rewarding Homer and Mary Kelly story in many years. I particularly liked the build up of suspense and tension as one calamity after another befalls children's book illustrator, Annie Swann, who is the Kelly's niece (on Mary's side of the family). Usually, the sense of drama in Ms. Langton's work is not nearly so palpable.
The plot is much more complicated than usual, and intelligently involves a large number of interesting characters. As a result, the action moves along faster and in more interesting ways than we have come to expect from Ms. Langton's fiction.
The book's major theme is about the vulnerabilities of innocence and goodness to those who are determined to do whatever it takes to succeed. In fact, the whole story can be read almost as though it is a morality play from the Middle Ages.
As you may know, Ms. Langton likes to let her readers in on who the murderer is early on. So the mystery is often mostly of how the mystery will be solved or the misdirection overcome. In this book, there are many more mysteries that do not necessarily match up with murder.
The book builds upon an opening in which Annie Swann is at the acme of her life. She has fame, fortune, talent, and rewarding work. Like many artists, she has conceived of a great masterpiece, a mural on the interior wall of a new wing she has built on her house.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 15, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Renowned children's book illustrator, Annie Swann, has just added an addition to her home. The new area includes a wall mural that allows Annie to paint characters from children's stories on it. The new addition allows Annie to supplement her income by renting out the old section of her home to the opportunist Gast family.
As she begins to paint the mural, two things occur. On the wall, a frightening face appears everyday that Annie cannot eradicate. Eddy Gast, a Down syndrome child mysteriously dies at the base of the mural. The Gasts quickly starts to sue their landlord for negligence and wrongful death. Annie turns to her Uncle Homer and Aunt Mary to prove her innocence and to learn why the visage keeps appearing on the wall.
Thirteen is a lucky number for fans of New England cozies as the marvelous Homer and Mary Kelly mysteries obtain that number with one of its best entries ever. THE FACE ON THE WALL is a very exciting novel due to its brilliant characterizations. Annie, her sleuthing relatives, and her paramour are all wonderful characters, while the villainous Gast family comprise some of the nastiest and vilest villains to reside in a cozy. This is one series that is well worth obtaining the back issues to read because the entire collection is fun, refreshing, and great to read.
Harriet Klausner
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Louis M. Perdue on April 16, 2003
Format: Paperback
What an amazing author Jane Langton is. One of the blurbs on my edition of this book states, "Today's best American mystery writer." I usually take such things as hyperbole but in this case, the reviewer may be right as I would certainly place Ms. Langton in the top three along with Elizabeth George and Elizabeth Peters. In this entry, Homer and Mary are helping with two mysteries, one involving an old student of Mary's and the other involving Mary's niece Anna who has just built a new house. Of course, the two different mysteries become one eventually. As always, the antics of Homer are fun to read and how Mary puts up with him, I will never figure out. I have read all but one of the Homer & Mary mysteries and am trying to find a copy of the one I have not read. I would recommend starting with this series from as close to the beginning as you can as the progression of the relationship between the two main characters is important.
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