Bibliophile reviews The Withdrawing Room by Charlotte MacLeod

Title: The Withdrawing Room
No. in series: 2
Year of publication: 1980
Type of mystery: Murder
Type of investigator: Amateur & semi-pro
Setting & time: Boston, USA; 1970´s

Following the deaths of her husband and mother in law (see The Family Vault), Sarah Kelling is stuck with 2 houses and 2 killer mortgages that may or may not be illegal, but it will take months or perhaps years to sort them out, so until then she is close to broke. Being a practical person and not as proud as her richer society relatives, she turns her townhouse into a boarding house, accepting only people with good references. Soon, however, one of her boarders is murdered, and another one soon afterwards. The case is solved with the help of a bag lady and Max Bittersohn, who has returned to the scene and rented a room in the house.

Some of what I wrote about the previous book in the series may be applied to this one as well, except the plotting is even more intricate. The author subtly points the reader – and the reader alone – in the direction of the solution, but one has to be reading the book in literary analysis mode to figure it out. Sarah does some detective work in the book, but it is Max and the police who solve the case, and unfortunately, since the viewpoint is Sarah's alone, that happens off stage, so while the readers are supplied with literary hints that the sleuths do not have access to, they are cheated of some of the actual clues the sleuths did find and therefore not on an even footing with them. As in the earlier book, elderly relatives of Sarah’s provide some humourous interludes.

Rating: An entertaining mystery with a twist in the tail. 3 stars.


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