As Just You Wait, the latest in Jane Tesh’s Grace Street Mystery series begins, it’s a busy spring in Parkland, North Carolina for the various denizens of 302 Grace Street and their friends. Wedding preparations for Cam, the clairvoyant owner of the house and Ellin his bossy bride to be are progressing slowly. There seems to be a shoplifting epidemic in local drug stores. An executive at a local cosmetics manufacturer has absconded with company funds. Pianist Charley Valentine is having relationship problems with his girlfriend, the beautiful Taffy. The local theater company is staging My Fair Lady and Cam is playing Freddy, while Kary, the love of private detective David Randall is in the orchestra. So when Viola Mitchell, one of the older actresses in the cast turns up dead, Randall jumps on the case.
Next thing you know he is also hired to find the finagling exec, stake out the local drug store, and find out why his friend Cam may be having second thoughts about the upcoming marriage. Besides he has personal reasons for wanting to help solve Valentine’s romance problems. It would seem a lot of excitement for a quiet North Carolina town, but plenty for a pleasant mystery read.
Now while pleasant might not be the best word to describe what some readers are looking for in a mystery, it does describe a significant mystery subgenre. It is a tale filled with quirky characters and events, often more interested in comic foibles than bloody gore. It is no coincidence that the last production of the local theater company, a production directly related to current problems was Arsenic and Old Lace, a classic of this subgenre.
Tesh has mastered her craft.
Quirky characters? She’s got more than her share: a cosmetic firm owner obsessed with peach; a gorgeous singer who writes pathetic songs; a clairvoyant who is developing the art of telekinesis; and to top it off a detective who seems as much interested in helping his friend work out his romantic problems as he is in solving a murder.
Moreover, Tesh is not above going for the laugh, but she usually manages to make it a function of character. She’ll have her characters indulge in everything from puns — the wedding music will not be the Taco Bell Canon in D, a T-shirt is emblazoned with “Whirled Peas” — to what you might want to call redneck, or perhaps just rustic, humour — a potential Romeo couldn’t attract a dog if he had a pork chop tied around his neck, a visitor will be as “welcome as an outhouse breeze.”
Just You Wait is a book for the reader in the market for something a bit more gentle, but spiced with a bit of gore. It is the fourth in a series, and it may well send the reader back for the first three.