Good news. Elena Santangelo is back in print. After
an unwelcome hiatus, her third book in the Pat Montella series is available
for your reading enjoyment. Just as a reminder, Elena (one of my very favorite
authors) delivers history along with a really good mystery. Using the past as
a catalyst, she works it into the present, proving that what happened in
history can have repercussions in modern times.
Her characters in Poison to Purge Melancholy live in
1780s Williamsburg. Elena's meticulous research allows the reader to dog the
footsteps of the residents of the famous historical site, live with them in
their colonial homes, wear their everyday dress, almost taste their foods, and
speak a more stilted English than we speak today. Pat Montella and her
ninety-year-old friend Maggie travel to Williamsburg to spend Christmas with
her boyfriend's family. Ghosts seem to always find Pat and this case is no
exception. A murder back in post-Revolution times haunts Pat and those in the
house who are receptive to ghostly meanderings.
I can't in good conscience reveal the intriguing plot
that rebounds with whispers from the past. Elena's great sense of humor,
happily, is still alive and well. The incredible Christmas repast that graces
the groaning board in today's story reflects a menu from days gone by. No
wonder they lived shorter lives than we do now. The boyfriend's family is a
hoot and Pat, with her Italian background, is a person who might be living
next door. Wish she lived next door to me.
Mary Ann Smyth
Pat Montello is spending Christmas in Williamsburg, Virginia, meeting her
boyfriend Hugh’’s mother and siblings. Already anxious, she is frightened
when she detects a ghostly presence in Gladys’’ house. The story then
jumps back to December 1783, when Ben Dunbar is trying to figure out who
killed his good friend, John Carson, and why. In present time, another mystery
arises when a houseguest at Gladys’’ is poisoned.
Ms. Santangelo does a great job of telling two very different stories at
the same time, linking them by their occurrence in the same house. The tales
are also coupled through the various ghosts that appear to some of the guests,
but not to family members. Both stories are complex and well elucidated.
Revolutionary War veteran Benjamin Dunbar is among the roomers at the house
of Elizabeth Carson, his friend’’s widow. Ben can investigate his friend’’s
death because, as a music master, he has access to many houses in town through
the lessons he gives. Gladys, a descendant of Elizabeth, is a staunch
preservationist. Her children regard her immersion in history skeptically,
especially when Gladys presents meals using foods of the Revolutionary era.
Alternating between the present and the eighteenth century, the book
includes a tremendous amount of historical information. The details of 1783
Christmas customs provide a look at a very different holiday than what is
celebrated today. A vital part of the story, it’’s also both interesting
Add a cast of intriguing characters, and one gets two exceptionally good
mysteries for the price of one in this delightful book.
Joshua N. Reider
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