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Book Review: A Place To Die by Dorothy James

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A place to live with all the luxuries as well as friends at your beck and call seems to be a lofty ambition. Could there really be a home for the elderly, one that is capable of housing those who just want a nice place to finish their lives, but for others a place where where they can be cared for in the last days of their lives? What happens when things do not work as planned and murder makes a stand?

In A Place to Die, author Dorothy James takes us to a retirement home in the Vienna Woods. Here she introduces us to an eclectic cast of characters who charm or annoy. When Eleanor and Franz Fabian arrive from their home in New York to settle his mother in her new rooms, they find themselves in the midst of a murder and a mystery — one that dates back to the history of some of the residents — after the wealthy and well-liked Herr Graf is found dead.

Eleanor is a mystery aficionado and is interested in the process of crime investigation, getting involved when she should not be. Her husband, however, has no time and finds it all very boring. When Inspector Georg Buchner gets the case he finds more mysteries behind each clue he uncovers. The residents are not above suspicion, yet neither are the help, including the physicians and nurses

Things take a strange turn when suddenly other residents begin dying of what appears to be natural causes and yet the abruptness and the number of deaths seem out of place. When the Fabians’ mother is found dead, only more questions begin to churn. What is happening and how will it end?

I love the characters; even the angry and gregarious ones have a place that fit in with my expectations of what such a home would be like. Eleanor is  fun and Franz is just plain annoying. Georg Buchner is a wonder protagonist and keeps the tension tight. As each clue unravels into the next, Buchner finds himself in a place he is not comfortable with. His flaws make him so much more human and likable.

James is able to build a mystery using the past, evoking the charm of the area, a history that today still rattles many cages. In the darkness of the woods, this history still carries anger and danger, and Ms. James is able to make you feel the tension in the air.

I found the story to be very well done, and hard to put down. If you love a mystery this one is just the thing to keep you guessing. There are so many possibilities, and yet the author sprinkles in enough red herrings to throw even the best of mystery buffs off track.

A Place to Die is a great book for your library. It would be a good book club novel or even one for a reading group. There are many potential controversies that would make good discussion fodder, but the theme and tone would also make for a fun read.

The ending will surprise you for many reasons — it was well done and interesting, actually quite satisfying in its own way.

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About Leslie Wright

Leslie Wright is an author and blogger in the Northwest.