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War and Peas (Jane Jeffry Mysteries, No. 8) Mass Market Paperback – November 1, 1997
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If the sub-category of mysteries called "Cozies" are your passion, then you probably know all about Churchill and her series of paperbacks about a cat-loving Chicago housewife and amateur detective named Jane Jeffrey. (The last one was called -- ready? -- The Silence of the Hams.) Now Jeffrey is making her hardcover debut, in a story full of the same kind of homey, light-hearted stuff. The head of the Snellen Museum, founded by pea king Auguste Snellen, has been shot to death during a Civil War battle reenactment at the annual pea festival. Jane -- single mother of three troublesome teenagers -- helps her policeman boyfriend solve the case in typically clever style. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
The intuition, wisdom and penchant for prying of Churchill's series heroine Jane Jeffry (The Silence of the Hams) make her an invaluable ally to police detective and significant other Mel VanDyne in this swift and agreeably perplexing tale. Regina Palmer, director of the Snellen Museum (dedicated to the study of rural history and founded by pea king Auguste Snellen) near Chicago, has been shot with an antique derringer during the Civil War reenactment that is a highlight of the small town's annual pea festival. Jane, who was one of the reenactors and who has her hands full as a single mother of three teenagers, utilizes her volunteer hours at the Snellen Museum to relentlessly pry beneath the surface of small-town respectability in hopes of finding Regina's killer. Was the murderer a rejected suitor? Was the insufferably arrogant Snellen family enraged that the museum took most of their inheritance? Was the killer (who strikes again in a particularly grisly fashion) seeking an heirloom pea? A slew of suspects?smarmy, lecherous, devious and greedy, but never dull?are queried by Jane and her equally nosy friend Shelley, with relevant information passed on to Mel. This is the eighth appearance for Jane and her first in hardcover. Churchill's cozy setting, beguiling plot and three-dimensional characters will keep readers fully engaged?and amused. 30,000 first printing; author tour.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
What? Would Jill Churchill work a sci fi time-warp into this series?
The confusion cleared when the amateur sleuth neighbors approached a cluster of aluminum lawn chairs holding an audience of applause, and the setting-shift crystalized when Shelley quipped an aside to Jane about how many Elizabeth Arden treatments it would take to undue the damage from the historic enactment in which they had immersed their bodies, attempting to get their souls to play, too.
Instead of immediately stepping into a Jane and Shelley novel, as usual, I had to reread that opening scene a couple times to allow it to "sink in"; and then to trod onward past that shift in plot initiation. The work was worth it, as reading gears engaged effortlessly when Mel sauntered into the scene and gallantly helped Jane out of a painful dilemma of what to do first in her heated exhaustion, grab a chair and sit, or dredge up water and drink.
As soon as Jane had seated herself and taken a swaggering swig of the lemonade obtained by Mel, murder was up.
The amateur sleuth housewife quickly found herself lifting out of her chair and handing over her drink to an overwrought young woman who had discovered that her boss had been downed by a too true-to-life firearm used in the enactment.
After only a few pages into the book (with the murder on page 7), Churchill had the story pleasantly percolating. I sighed in relief along with the women when they were generously given plot space to take turns releasing themselves from itchy Civil War clothing, and sliding into hot & cold showers. After I had connected securely into the narrative flow, I looked back at the opening toss of a time curve to notice its ingenuity, even though the twist had caused a short-term hurdle.
The suspect sleuthing and motive menagerie were entertainingly convoluted in this one, working around various people and positions related to the museum board of directors, staff, and family funding. With a bit of old-money snobbery schmoozed into the labyrinth, Shelley shined, honing her abilities to snub, snort, snicker, or sneeze at social-strata brats.
Kindly outside the strata, one quiet scene immediately took hold, deepening my interest. A mannerly older man, visitor to the museum, happened to snag the attention (luckily) of the most polite and caring staff member, telling his story about an experimental pea from Snellen, which he had grown, then lost years prior to his current retirement. The pea had been unique in growing along the ground rather than vertically up a trellis, which made that variety difficult to pick, yet which allowed a surprising quality to take hold. Potatoes and other vegetables grown in the presence of the slithering pea vine gave phenomenally increased outputs of quality and quantity. Somehow the seed was lost, however, and not recovered by this man nor by Snellen, as far as he knew.
There was something mesmerizing to me about the way that story was told, gracefully and graciously by the gentlemen, and about the way at least two listeners attended the tale (Jane happened to be in a position to eavesdrop, unnoticed).
Speaking of eavesdropping, a second scene which took hold in a similar way to the above, took place with Jane overhearing a snippy conversation between Derek Snellen and Tom Cable, who had discounted the fact that Jane was in the room. I enjoyed the way Jane described (to the reader) the cause of her "invisibility" to these two men who had emotionally charged each other into giving away a few secrets, which they likely would not have done in any other complex run of circumstance. The beginning of that scene, prior to Tom's entrance, had also triggered my interest, when Derek had stepped into the room, which he had thought was empty, and was taken off guard by Jane's presence, as she was typing entries on the museum's computer.
In plot places like these I often notice that I've "fallen into" a scene, whereas prior to that I had been reading along in comfortable containment, but not at a level of "awakening later" to realize I had been so thoroughly immersed I had lost awareness of reading.
Awareness of this captivating ability of eavesdropping scenes reminded me that Sue Grafton regularly used a similarly effective technique when she had her P.I., Kinsey Millhone, point out the guilty pleasure she relished when in process of breaking into someone's house to unlock clues.
Another engrossing scene in PEAS featured Babs recounting to Jane and Shelley a horrifying time she had in her youth, verbally purging what she had done to end the nightmare of a short marriage.
For me, it took a while to get cozy in the setting at the museum, with Jane and Shelley having set themselves up for volunteer work. But, as I passed that second hurdle (which probably wouldn't cause any slow-down for most readers), I noticed that this book seemed a bit longer than some of the others, and was pleased to discover I was glad of that fact, because, once I had warmed into it, I didn't want to leave any time soon.
From page 206 of the mass market paperback, through a few pages of soliloquy, Jane gave an interesting slant on amateur sleuth-ery, which I marked to reread periodically.
This type of mystery has a nearly unsolvable problem in excusing amateur actions within criminal investigations, because in any point-of-globe reality, police-related-personnel cannot allow civilian outsiders extensive access or ingress to any type of procedural investigation, let alone a murder.
The elderly Miss Marple, as one of the first of her kind (amateur sleuths; see my review of Murder At The Vicarage) handled this situation amazingly well, with her natural reticence, gracious manners, and trod-gently respect toward police presence, ultimately winning a quiet place in an investigation, from which vantage point she had an opening to subtly expose her unique types of insight, in a believable, acceptable, even admirable manner.
My problem with most amateur sleuth series I've read is that the amateurs are inevitably irritating in their feelings of superiority over police professionals. Since, to me, this is an essential "pea-in-the-mattress" of this mystery category side-genre; I've purposely seated a habit of dissolving this type of irritation in favor of enjoying the story (sometimes an author uses the potential irritation to tap my funny bone, which usually works). When my "suspend irritation" habit has been activated, I'm impressed when I come across a better than normal explanation, which Jill accomplished here, of the amateur's unique "powers" of criminal-act solution, and an elevation of excuses offered for his/her being allowed into the informational (and sometimes action-al) inside of an investigation.
Even Private Eye offerings have their problems acting within and around police policies, but in that case there is a historic reality (in our world outside the art of the novel) from which to work, since P.I.'s often have well used contacts within a police organization.
Some of the more difficult situations of accomplishing the amateur's acceptance by police and by readers are in the cases of suburban housewives, cookie store or catering operation owners, and cordon blue chefs. All of these female sleuth series provide entertainingly unique setups to allow entry into closed areas, with a particular chef winning the ribbon (see my review of RED HOT MURDER, by Joanne Pence), using the type of relationship she has with a San Francisco police inspector, and the unique type of spirited personality she possesses.
Speaking of difficulties getting into the framework of a murder investigation, even police personnel are very much preyed upon by natural human conflicts around who gets the clues and who gets to polish them to crafty completion. Sometimes boundaries are hurdled between jurisdictions; other times the tension juggle-and-hustle is in-house. But, where there's murder there's curiosity afoot, and competitive desire to be on top of an unraveling ball of mystery. Even the reader is not immune. In fact, ...
But we won't go there. At least, not in this review which is coming to a close.
As was the case in WAR AND PEAS, in this series Churchill has repeatedly been successful at incorporating various hobbies and industries which had never been areas of overwhelming interest in my natural inclinations.
In the concluding scenes of PEAS the author (metaphorically) pulled a cat out of the bag, and unlocked a "closed room," as she teased about a historic misconception about one of the most natural of functions. With the door open and the cat romping free, Churchill made me smile at Jane's final, somewhat open-ended statements to Shelley.
Since I've already read and reviewed (see my Listmania for blurbs on each book, listed in order) the latest books in this series, now I have only 2 more Jeffry novels left to read. Now, THAT'S a tragedy. Thankfully, a huge variety of other cozy mystery series are available out there, and within Amazon's vast domain. I've been alternating and rotating many of these, to my great engrossment.
I've just started reading MERCHANT OF MENACE, # 10 in the Jane Jeffry series, and my mass market paperback of that one (with the most recent cover design worked around the "C" in Churchill) includes promotional excerpts from a few other series into which I could burrow when the bottom of the Jeffry well runs dry, and I'm forced to wait for the next faucet to fall off the press. (Mixed metaphors really make a mess of logic, don't they?)
I picked up MERCHANT (along with A GROOM WITH A VIEW, # 11) during the pilgrimage trip to Portland, OR, mentioned in my recent review of Jane's # 5, A KNIFE TO REMEMBER.
Oh! There's the coop! I should flew it.
This book is exactly that, a mystery filled with terrific humor.
As the story opens, Jane and Shelley are in the hot sun, crossing a field during a Civil War re-enactment. The conditions for both women are very uncomfortable, but not as uncomfortable as it is for the woman who is dead.
This re-enactment is part of the celebration sponsored by the Snellen museum. The Snellen museum is dedicated to peas, farming and local lore.
The dead woman was the director of the Snellen museum. And the suspect list is filled with people connected to the museum. Although Regina Parker was generally well liked, it is apparent that there may have been people who were not so fond of her.
The story is well plotted and things move along in an interesting manner. Each new event gives the reader more information about the people and events of the story. Ms Churchill has provided humor along with the plot. There are situations which provide the reader with laugh out loud moments.
Jane and Shelley are terrific women. They are smart women who devote time to good causes and that is what has brought them to the museum. While at the museum helping catalog items, they also spend time doing some detecting. Both of them want to find out who would murder a good woman like Regina Parker.
The secondary characters are fun and interesting people who add depth the story. Since each of them is a possible suspect, their personalities and actions add interest for the reader.
I must admit there were parts of the solution I had figured out before I got to the end.
This is another fun book by Jill Churchill and as always, I had a terrific time.
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Jane, the main character, and her best friend Shelley are doing volunteer work at a museum.Read more