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"Here's the Dorothy Parker of mystery writers . . . giving more wit per page than most writers give per book."
In her new novel starring Philadelphia schoolteacher Amanda Pepper, Gillian Roberts once again mixes mystery and mirth. This time Roberts explores Philadelphia's unique flesh and blood "historical monument"-- the Mummers, who live (and perhaps are willing to die) for a few hours of glory every New Year's Day.
The famous Mummers' Parade is an extravaganza that draws enormous crowds who cheer through chattering teeth, as more than thirty thousand clowns, string bands, and fancy brigades strut their stuff up Broad Street. But this year, while the music blares and the Mummers dance, a reveling Pierrot suddenly sinks to the ground, shot dead.
Amanda is, at first, only a horrified spectator. But when the prime suspect--her friend and fellow teacher at Philly Prep--falsely claims to have been with her at the time of the murder, Amanda can no longer stay on the sidelines.
Is the murder a flare-up of deadly rivalries? Is it connected with the disappearance, the week before Christmas, of another Mummer, the heir to a meat-packing family? Does someone disapprove of the Mummers' feathers, sequins, and string bands? And why is no one in the tight-knit world Amanda investigates willing to tell the truth about anything?
With Amanda on the scene, the who in whodunit doesn't stay secret for long. In The Mummers' Curse, Gillian Roberts is, as always, at the head of the parade.
Devaney. He didn’t call and alert you to his considerable lie, did he?” I shook my head. It felt heavy with woeful suspicion. “An’ it is a lie, isn’t it?” I exhaled with annoyance. “Had to ask, is all. See why I can’t interrogate you or take a statement?” Point well made. “Thing is, he trusts you to protect him. Which is to say, with a relationship like that, maybe you’d find things out that we aren’t going to, like why he’s lying and what’s really going down. At least, you might find out
who had read my mind and answered it. An unshaven man in a raveling knit cap and layers of jackets and shirts, none of which looked warm enough to protect him, grimaced. “Nowhere?” he repeated, this time as a question. “Excuse me?” “The recycling center, like I said. Know where it is, lady? Do. You. Know. Where?” He punched the side of one of his plastic bags and I heard a metallic clinking. I smiled my relief. Know where. Unfortunately, I had no idea where the recycling center might be. In
an actual answer in the offing, she never knew it, but responded like somebody speaking in tongues. I stopped rising to the bait and ignored her hand-waving. She sank into head-clasping depression. When I asked for a three-paragraph composition on what resolution they thought they might keep and why, Renata was in too much despair to lift her pen. At the end of class, I walked over to the window. The view I thought of as mine seemed altered. The street looked diminished—used and abandoned—by the
sweet, to jolly me out of a severe case of the willies, but I felt patronized. “You must be hungry,” he said, “and I’ve eaten everything I bought.” “I had popcorn.” The sight of the fat sausage took whatever residual appetite I had away. Amazing what the overtones of a single cylinder of processed meat could do. “How about I scramble you some eggs and brown this up with it?” he asked. “What is blood sausage, anyway? Why is it called that?” “Because it has a lot of blood in it.” He retrieved
Mackenzie was less entranced. “Wish they’d speed things up,” he said. “Why? Does the Mardi Gras rush by at Mach speed?” By way of answer, he took a tissue out of his pocket and blew his nose. “This is on TV,” he said softly. “The whole thing. We could go home, light a fire, make a pot of coffee, snuggle on the sofa and see it. Or better still, tape and fast-forward it. Make them strut double-time. One turn and twirl per man allowed. It’s not like you’re takin’ notes or doin’ anythin’ you