3 out of 4 stars
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It is peculiar to think someone could enjoy murder, but it seems as if sleuthing is the major entertainment in Martha’s Vineyard for the trio of characters in Arsenic and Old Men. I chose this book because I wanted something light. I find entirely too much serious crime on TV and in the newspaper, so I thought this would satisfy as recreational reading. It does not disappoint.
Glen Ickler places Mitch, Dave, and Al, his serial favorites from Minnesota, on Martha’s Vineyard with their wives to attend to the details surrounding the death of Dave’s uncle. The cause of death shifts from a presumed heart attack to arsenic poisoning after an autopsy. Since the uncle had been an honored member of the St. Paul area press, Mitch gets orders from his hometown editor to report on the details for the paper. However, as the inheritor of a sizable estate, Dave and his friends come under suspicion. They soon find a second arsenic victim, send their wives home, and embark on an investigative effort. In the process, they antagonize the local detective, eat many meals in the same restaurant, endure an annoying car rental agent, and weather a nor’easter. After many phone calls, they figure things out and foolishly try to set a trap. Their adventures are entertaining, if not terrifically suspenseful.
The major criticism I have is that the humor was very clichéd. Mr. Ickler compares his three protagonists to the three stooges a few too many times. He goes so far as to borrow the ‘nyuck, nyuck’ of the iconic Curly even though his slapstick is much less amusing. There are also some really sour puns. For example, “This murder is at a dead end.” Some jokes are repeated, and corny lines are given to each of the sleuths to feed back to one another. Overworked or not, I did have to smile every time I read, “You’re the boss.”
Most of the supporting characters surrounding Mitch, Dave, and Al behave in predictable ways. Even though Ickler places them in some extraordinary circumstances, the plot does a good job of misdirecting your attention to other suspects. I found it odd, though, that Ickler had such a mild description of the locale. Martha’s Vineyard is lovely, but you get only an impression of the surroundings. The characters refer to their prior visit to the island. Again, you get the impression that they are more familiar with their surroundings than the reader can tell. There are obvious ticklers to a former novel published in the Mitch and Al series. However, the reader can navigate Arsenic and Old Men without having read any of Ickler’s previous works.
If you are looking for intense mystery or intricate crime plots, this book is not for you. In addition, there are scenes of nudity and a smattering of profanity, which make it unsuitable for young readers. A likely audience would be middle-aged mystery readers who need to rest their brains.
As far as editing in concerned, it appears to be professionally done. Formatting and spacing appear to be fine. However, the downloaded copy lacked a cover image. In addition, there were a few errors consisting mostly of dropped words. Because of this and other flaws mentioned above, I would have to rate this novel three out of four stars. Though it is not in a class with Agatha Christie or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, it is charming in its own way.
Arsenic and Old Men
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