Murder at the Rummage Sale (Albany, NY: Imagination Fury Arts, 2016) by Elizabeth Cunningham is a mystery novel with a style and depth of thought that offers not only the fun of figuring out “Who Dun It” but also gorgeous prose and poetic phrasing which is not so commonly found in the mystery genre.
Set in 1960 small town America, the book transports us back to that era with a fine eye to detail. It takes place over a few days in the life of the Church of the Regeneration as the women prepare for their annual rummage sale. Charlotte Crowley, an over bearing kleptomaniac who wraps men around her little finger while antagonizing most of the women, has always led the effort. But with only a few days to go before the sale begins, Charlotte is found dead in the basement, smothered by a plastic dry cleaning bag full of coats.
Though the police declared the death to be accidental, Lucy Way, an older woman with a bit of faery blood and white curls she is very proud of, has her suspicions. Lucy sets out to solve the crime with the help of a cast of characters associated with the church: the Reverend Gerald Bradley, the church minister with a love of drink; Anne Bradley, his wife who doubts the existence of God; Katherine Bradley, their fanciful seven year old daughter; and Katherine’s sworn blood brother, Frankie Lomangino Jr., son of Frankie Lomangino an ex-con who becomes the prime suspect.
Cunningham paints the characters with love as she explores the good, the bad and the ugly of human nature. She masterfully goes back and forth between the different voices of man and woman, adult and child, revealing the needs, biases and world views of each. Magic, deep illustrations of nature and our connection to it, mouth watering descriptions of food and cooking, and questions of theology and morality are woven through out this mystery novel which keeps you on the edge of your seat, turning the pages in anticipation. Here is a paragraph I found compelling:
It was almost time to go back, but Anne was waiting, waiting for the exact moment the tide turned, except that it was hardly even a moment, it was a lull, the most exquisite lull, before a breath out became a breath in, like the moment when a sleepy baby stirred at your breast and his eyes opened, then closed, and you saw the tiny veins if his eyelids. Anne stood and closed her eyes now, breathing the scent of low tide, sweet and salt and bitter all at once. Seagulls cried overhead while cormorant stood silently beside her, waiting for the same signals. If Anne had a soul it lived here, between the tides, between earth and water, water and sky, Her soul was made of this.
Readers can expect both great fun and moments of transcendent meditation on the little things in life as they explore the characters and guess their way to a satisfying and compassionate ending.
Murder at the Rummage Sale is a perfect book to curl up with on a cold winter’s night. You can get a copy at Indie Bound, an online community of local bookstores or at Amazon.
Judith Shaw, a graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute, has been interested in myth, culture and mystical studies all her life. Not long after graduating from SFAI, while living in Greece, Judith began exploring the Goddess in her artwork. She continues to be inspired by the Goddess in all of Her manifestations. Originally from New Orleans, Judith now makes her home in New Mexico where she paints and sells real estate part-time. She is currently hard at work on a deck of Goddess cards. Give yourself the gift of one of Judith’s prints and paintings, priced from $25 – $3000.