If you are upset that you couldn’t get tickets for the world championship boxing bout, ask a friend to invite you to her next co-op apartment board meeting. The language may be more controlled than a left to the chin, but the passion behind it is sometimes no less fierce.
Returning from a visit to her son’s family in California, retired attorney Martha Patterson steps out of the plane at LaGuardia into a New York City heat wave. OK. She’ll get home to her air-cooled apartment, have a leisurely bath, rest up from two weeks with wonderful but energy-demanding grandchildren, and get back to gentle retirement, punctuated by the occasional commission to prepare a brief or other legal document for friends in the law.
The first sign of trouble is Boris, the doorman at her apartment house. Boris has shed the uniform coat that seemed almost a part of him and is in his shirtsleeves. The entrance door has been propped open, to very little avail. Boris makes it official. He is sorry to say it, but the air conditioning is out of order.
Tired, hot, anxious for respite, why does Martha agree to take a place on the board? There are only two ways she can only explain it to herself. Either she feels it’s her duty as a long-time tenant – or she’s a damn fool. The board meeting the next day seems to confirm the latter; she finds herself in the midst of turmoil, and tempers rise with the temperature. But could a fight over putting in a new kitchen or selling an apartment really lead to murder? The tenants’concerns seem unconnected to the death of a former archaeologist.
The dangerous task of finding the killer and fending off another murder falls on seventy year old Martha, who combines exceeding common sense with sharp intellect.
Sprague makes her characters live for us, taking us into the world of middle-class midtown Manhattan professionals, showing them as the sometimes flawed, mostly decent humans they are, and giving them one of the city’s crimes to roil their lives and engage ours. Whether her readers live in the City or in an Iowa village, there is no mystery writer who shares her crimes and their solutions more effectively. Turn on your air conditioning and enjoy Gretchen Sprague’s Heat Wave!