Book: Poison to Purge MelancholyPOISON TO PURGE MELANCHOLY
By Elena Santangelo




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


From Mystery Scene Review:

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 and educational.

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 

< Back to Poison to Purge Melancholy description                               Read an excerpt >