Author Jeanne Matthews
Matthews debuts a new series starring energetic amateur sleuth Dinah Pelerin. Dinah has had a series of makeshift jobs, but her real passions are mythology and anthropology. She has just received a summons from her wealthy American uncle to witness his suicide. Dying of cancer, he has asked his entire family (several wives, assorted children, and niece Dinah) to come to a remote lodge in northern Australia. Before the suicide can take place, a murder occurs that may be tied to the bizarre death of a stranger on a nearby island, who was impaled on the back of a sea turtle. Digging into the case, Dinah discovers that the members of her family are not exactly who or what she had assumed they were all these years. On the positive side, she may be in line for an inheritance, and she has a unique opportunity to study Aboriginal Australian culture. Readers will enjoy the anthropology frame and the liberal doses of “Strine” (Australian slang) that appear throughout. Fans of Elizabeth Peters’ Vicky Bliss should try this engaging new series, which will take Dinah to various locales in search of anthropological adventure.
Gems: This story reads like a whodunit murder mystery reminiscent of the television series, Murder She Wrote sprinkled with a dash of Agatha Christie and mixed with a pinch of Perry Mason. The humor is superb and the insertion of the main character’s thoughts about what would be scribed on her headstone is insightful and hilarious. If you’re a fan of those series, then this will be an enjoyable, fun read for you. I loved the lingo and character development. The cast is vast, but each is unique and easily followed. To make this a classic murrrddahhh all it needs is a storm followed by a dead phone line and power outage. The story might seem a bit unbelievable, but given the setting, the land of “Oz,” it supplies a nice thematic quality and makes it easy to swallow. Strange things happen in strange lands. Isn’t that part of the mystique?
Flaws: I cut out half of the ‘synopsis’ because by the time a person reads it, they probably don’t need to read the book. It gives too much away. The murder on the island is a cloak used to cast off the real happenings and is neatly tied in towards the end for relevancy, but is not the focal point and because of this, becomes anti-climax. It can’t hold the weight it’s originally given. There are several other irrelevant details provided along the way for back story or plot diversion. Dinah should lose the boyfriend in the beginning, middle and mentioning at the end. He is useless from the get go and a detail that went no where and has little impact on the overall outcome of the story. At times, the main character seems silly or ridiculous, even childlike. She has too much baggage for one female role on the move to tote.