A museum murder puts Boston’s married art sleuths to work: “The screwball mystery is Charlotte MacLeod’s cup of tea” (Chicago Tribune).
When the doddering patrons of the Wilkins Museum learned that dozens of their priceless masterworks had been stolen and replaced by forgeries, there was no one to turn to but Sarah Kelling and Max Bittersohn—the savviest art detectives of the Boston upper crust. Nabbing the crooks was easy, but finding the missing paintings has proven trickier. Years later, the collection’s prized Titian is still lost, and the new director, loudmouthed cattle baron Elwyn Fleesom Turbot, is getting impatient. And things get even more troublesome when members of his staff begin to die. It starts when Dolores Tawne, the elderly, bossy museum administrator, is stabbed through the base of her skull with an antique hatpin. Inside the dead woman’s safe deposit box Sarah finds clues to a conspiracy that stretches back decades and a way to stop the murders that are still to come.
Reaching for too many laughs, MacLeod falls flat with the 12th entry in her Sarah Kelling and Max Bittersohn series (after Something in the Water). The title refers to Sarah's duties as unexpected executrix of the will of bossy Dolores Tawne, administrator of Boston's Wilkins Museum, who has been stabbed to death with an antique hairpin (a method, Sarah observes, written about by famed archeologist Amelia Peabody Emerson, Elizabeth Peters's series heroine). Among Dolores's effects is a safe deposit box she left unopened for 30 years. The box contains six antique stickpins and a photograph of the Wicked Widows, a group of seven masked street performers who, it turns out, are wanted for the murders of four Boston policemen some years ago. Relying on disguises and guesswork, Sarah triumphs in a final melodramatic scene. The meandering narrative, aimless chatter and absence of Sarah's husband, Max, who's in Argentina, sabotage this effort.