What could be simpler for a PI and his gal than attending a high-fashion weekend in the country to keep a close eye on the erratic host that someone wants dead?
Sounds like a simple assignment. Randy and Bertha go undercover for a high class weekend in the country, all expenses paid. All they have to do is pretend to be somebody else while keeping a close eye on their host, Archibald Anthony, the famous Serial Painter, and mingle with the other guests, exchanging pleasantries. Their job? To keep Anthony alive until the long weekend is over and sort through the suspects when the bodies start falling.
Of course the guests include some of the top rungs of the social ladder: vampires, elves, hobgoblins, goblins, trolls, gremlins, plus the addition of the varied staff members loose on the estate. Strangely enough, almost everyone seems to have their own private agenda.
Randolf C. Aloysius and his assistant, Bertha Wildwater, are hired for what is supposed to be a simple undercover assignment. They are hired to ensure that Archibald Anthony, the famous serial painter, stays alive throughout the weekend. The letter Randy receives giving him this assignment says, “You may be wondering why we have hired you. Artists of this stature are famous for being fickle and having enemies, and Anthony is a member of the Irrationist School of Modernistic Interpretation. They are feuding with at least two other groups, the Realistic Methodists for Landscapeture and Image Depiction, and the Anarchistic Academy of Delineation and Portraiture.”
And so the fun begins. This is an exciting, fast-paced novel with a bevy of suspects among the weekend guests as well as the varied staff members. Suspects are eliminated when they become victims, and Randy and Bertha have their work cut out for them. I liked both Randy and Bertha and found them to be very believable and real characters. Bertha, a half banshee, definitely knows how to handle herself and thanks to some night classes she also knows a bit of magic. But is it enough to keep ahead of the vampires, gremlins, and other assorted characters?
The setting is shown in humorous and complete detail. Randy and Bertha begin their adventures in Muddy Hogland Town which has “the atmosphere of a Venusian swamp.” It is descriptions such as this which add to the tone of the novel which reads like a crime detective story in the noir tradition. Mysteries abound and it is difficult to tell the villains from the merely greedy and grasping.
Many of the chapters open with a favorite saying from one of Randy’s relatives, and those are both humorous and revealing. Randy may think he is the detective, but he gets a lot of help from Bertha and the two work surprisingly well together. Fans of the fantasy detective story will certainly enjoy this fun and exciting mystery, filled with many quirky and unusual characters.