As promised in my last book review (on Deirdre Mask’s The Address Book), this time I’m reviewing Rita Mae Brown's mystery novel, Wish You Were Here. And while we’re getting started, I mustn’t neglect to mention that, in fact, Rita Mae Brown had a co-author on this book, Sneaky Pie Brown, a cat which condescends to share her living space!
In my search for books about post, I’ve come across quite a few mysteries—including one by one of my favourite Golden Age crime writers, E.C.R. Lorac, which you can probably expect to see me review here sometime in the future. I try to select a range of different genres when I can, since I know that Postcrossers are a very diverse group with all kinds of interests… but nonetheless, the mysteries are compelling, and this book in particular got me thinking about why—but let me introduce it for a moment first!
Wish You Were Here is set in a post office, which gives the protagonist plenty of opportunity to snoop. The protagonist Harry is the postmistress, so she’s able to put two and two together when people start turning up murdered shortly after receiving mysterious postcards—a clue that the police would otherwise have missed.
That’s what I think is so appealing generally about using mail in some way in mystery stories. The things we write on our letters and postcards can be revealing of our personalities, and even addresses and postmarks can tell you a lot, even without peeking inside. The handwriting on the outside of an envelope can be the tiny telling detail that someone’s long lost auntie is about to make a triumphant return. In addition, postal workers can make a convenient witness, criminal, or provider of an alibi, or bring along the crucial evidence at just the right time.
In Harry’s case, the mystery is enlivened by interludes featuring cats, dogs, and other creatures, all sleuthing away at the mystery as well. For me, this was just a bit too cutesy; I’m not above anthropomorphising my own pets, but no matter how clever I tell them they are, my bunnies can barely sniff their way to their food bowls without great encouragement! I had difficulty with suspending my disbelief to imagine that a cat—even a clever cat—could reason out why someone might be the murderer… or that cats and dogs would talk amongst themselves exactly like humans do. That spoiled things a bit for me, though I think that touch of whimsy might be exactly what makes other people enthusiastic. Especially the pet-lovers amongst us!
I do love the idea of a postmistress being ideally placed to figure out a murder, all the same, and I got wrapped up enough in figuring out whodunnit that I finished the book in record time. I don’t think I’ll be continuing with the series, but it was an enjoyable read despite my doubts about our feline friends, and in this book at least, the postal system is pretty important, with threats/clues being delivered by mail, and Harry’s knowledge as the postmistress of Crozet giving her the information she needs to start working things out.
Don’t worry, I haven’t spoiled you on any of the clues, if this book sounds like your thing. There’s plenty still to discover in Crozet (especially judging from the number of books in this series).
Now that I’ve reviewed this one, I’ve promised plenty of times already that I’ll read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows), so I really better stick to it… and after that, who knows? E.C.R. Lorac’s Post After Post-Mortem is beckoning, but I’m hoping to find another non-fiction book to review first. There are a few on my wishlist, so watch this space!
Don’t forget, you can also make book suggestions to me in the forum thread I set up (you’ll need to be logged in to access it).