A New Mexico Mystery Review: The Easter Egg Murder
This entry was posted on November 25, 2014 and tagged New Mexico Mystery, Patricia Smith Wood
The best analogy I can think of for this book is a Rubik’s Cube. As I read it, I knew all the pieces of the puzzle could fit together, but I never did figure out how until the end. It’s the kind of mystery that engages the mind, with intricately constructed interlocking pieces and multiple layers of relationships, motives and history. It has a whodunit within a whodunit, as the team of amateur sleuths, police and FBI in 2000 work out who is behind the unsolved “Easter Egg murder” from 1950, as well as a murder and an attempted murder in their own time. In spite of this complexity there are no loose ends, no holes, and even its surprise ending is set up so the closure comes from the prior events, not out of the blue.
The cascade of events in this story is triggered when Senator Philip Lawrence starts writing two books—his memoir of his life in politics, and a book about a fifty-year-old murder that took place in the small New Mexico town of Los Huevos on Easter Sunday. The second book becomes more important to him than the first, and when word gets out that he’s working on it, the project stirs up some serious trouble. The retired senator’s editors find themselves in the middle of that trouble. I liked the way the two editors’ involvement in solving a mystery was handled. The amateurs don’t outsmart the professionals, but cooperate and communicate with them in a realistic way, as well as occasionally striking out on their own.
The characters are deft sketches, the pace brisk. The pieces of the puzzle keep moving. For those who like their books spare and fast, this will fit the bill. The tension is seldom at a life-threatening level, but it builds steadily to that point. There isn’t a dull moment or a single extra word that could have been cut.
I actually would have liked a few more words. The historical part of the mystery was so interesting I wanted to explore that time and place in more depth. I had a good sense of Harrie—one of the editors who is the primary point of view character—as a whole person, but I didn’t get to know the other major players as well as I would have liked. Almost like a radio play, a good portion of the story is told in dialog. I’m never in a hurry to have a good book end and I wouldn’t have minded if this slender 212 page novel had a little more meat on its bones.
Next week I’ll have an interview with the author, in which she shares some fascinating background on this book.