I like all kinds of mysteries so, when I was looking for a new one, I thought the publisher’s promo for Love, Honour, and O’Brien by Jennifer Rowe sounded entertaining. I knew nothing about Australian author Jennifer Rowe or her mystery novels, including that she’s an award-winning author. Go figure – where have I been? If you like unconventional, humorous mysteries featuring reluctant female heroines then hopefully you’ll get as much of a kick out of this one as I did.
Holly Love has enjoyed working on invoices at Gorgon Office Supplies in Sydney, Australia, but she’s met the man of her dreams, financial advisor Andrew McNish. Now she’s driving off in her old Mazda to Springwood in the Blue Mountains to marry him. She’s so excited she can’t stand it and she can’t wait to get there. All she can think about is how wonderful it will be once they’ve said their “I do’s” and have settled down in Andrew’s cute little house to begin their new lives together.
“Among all the children in her extended family, she had been the sensible one – the one among all the cousins who could be relied upon. But now she was thirty-one, and being sensible had lost its charm. Andrew’s sublime confidence had swept her off her feet – or would have done if she hadn’t already been lying down.”
The Mazda barely makes it before dying on her. Unfortunately what Holly also finds when she arrives is that Andrew isn’t there. He’s abandoned the house and stolen all of Holly’s money, the money he convinced her to put into a joint savings account in anticipation of their marriage. All he left her was a note tacked to the refrigerator saying he was sorry and leaving her $40 in cash, as if that would get her very far.
I tried to call you, but your phone was off. Sorry for the late notice, but I have to leave. Something has come up. Don’t try to find me. Just forget I ever existed.
She’s not only devastated and heartbroken, she’s angry. How dare he?! Holly vows to get revenge if it’s the last thing she does – oh, and get her money back too, dammit! She hires Mick O’Brien, who she found in the phone book, a private investigator who’s obviously seen better days but who swears it will only take him a couple of days to find Andrew.
Unfortunately when she drives to O’Brien’s office/flat in Mealey Marshes to discuss the case with him, she finds him dead. Because she has nowhere to go and his lease is paid up, his neighbors, clairvoyant Abigail Honour and the elderly Enid Moss, convince her to stay there to feed his garrulous cockatoo while continuing the search for Andrew.
“The cockatoo had retired to its cage. It was staring balefully at Holly through its bars.
‘You don’t have to look at me like that,’ said Holly. ‘None of this is my fault.’
The parrot poked its heads forward. ‘Give us a biscuit!’ It said. There was something deceitful about its eyes.”
Because Holly is in O’Brien’s flat, everyone in the small town of Mealey Marshes just assumes she’s his partner so they keep trying to hire her as an investigator. So Holly becomes a reluctant, bumbling investigator despite her assurances she isn’t one.
One of the people who contacted her is the very eccentric Una Maggott, the local heiress with whom Andrew had been staying after leaving Holly high and dry. Una’s house is like something straight out of a creepy old horror movie and Una fits the creepy mold too.
“The woman was mad. She was proposing some sort of game. Hunt-the-Andrew. Holly had read about people like this. She’d seen movies about them. She never thought she’d actually meet one.”
Una insists Andrew was her long-lost younger brother and that someone in her household murdered him. Is Andrew really dead? If so, who killed him? Was it Eric, the Elvis impersonator who drives a hearse? Was it the sly, gorgeous Lily who Una believes is a witch? Was it the whiny Dulcie or her video-game addicted son? Was it Sheena, the housekeeper who used to “nurse” Una’s elderly father? Was it the sinister family attorney? Could it have been the boa constrictor that lives in the library?
Love, Honour, and O’Brien is as funny as it is mysterious. Poor Holly is doing her best to survive in awful circumstances. She just wants to find Andrew and get her money back so she can try to piece her life back together. This story has lots of twists and turns, some funny and some sinister. And there are definitely some “Eeeew” moments. Bottom line: In many ways, this is a classic locked room mystery a la Agatha Christie but in this case it’s a locked house and barred window mystery. And it’s very entertaining. I’d love to see more Holly Love mysteries so I’m hoping this is the start of a series!
Love, Honour, and O’Brien was released on January 3, 2012, so it should be available at your favorite bookseller below. Just click on the button to go there to get it.
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