The Busy Body
reviewed by Carolyn Scott
Former Senator, Dorothy Gibson has just lost the US Presidential Election, standing as an Independent against a popular but unscrupulous man. After an exhausting campaign in which she came closer to winning than anyone expected, she’s has now retreated to her house in the Maine countryside to relax and regroup. She’s also hired a ghostwriter, to help her write her memoirs.
The ghostwriter (whose name we never learn) is a loner who keeps to herself, having cut herself off from her family and avoiding contact with others as much as possible. However, due to the location of Dorothy’s mansion, she has accepted her invitation to stay in the house (along with Dorothy’s personal aide, household staff and body guards) so that they can work on the book together. She soon finds that she and Dorothy work well together, with much in common, including a snarky sense of humor.
On an outing to buy wine, they meet a woman who is currently living in the house on the other side of Dorothy woodland, along with her surgeon husband and a family of house guests. Introducing herself as Vivian Davis, she is vivacious and friendly, commiserating with Dorothy over the election, even requesting a selfie with her. However, two days later Dorothy and the ghostwriter are shocked to hear that Vivian has committed suicide.
Dorothy is not convinced that the bubbly woman they met would kill herself and decides she and the ghostwriter need to do some sleuthing of their own. A devotee of true crime podcasts and documentaries, the ghostwriter is thrilled to have a real crime happen on her doorstep and is more than happy to follow in Dorothy’s formidable wake as she charges in seeking answers to questions about Vivian’s life and death.
Narrated by the ghostwriter, this is a fun and entertaining cosy mystery with delightful main characters. Dorothy is a very likeable and dynamic person, one who gets things done without too much fuss (a busy body in many ways). Even though she is a self-claimed loner, the ghostwriter also seems quite personable when she wants, attracting the eye of the hunky bodyguard and able to winkle information from chatting with people. She and Dorothy both enjoy witty banter and bouncing ideas off each other and together make a formidable team of sleuths.
The author, Kemper Donovan hosts a podcast, All About Agatha, and his novel is a homage to golden age mysteries. The plot starts slowly, introducing all the characters and then gradually building as questions are asked and clues gathered, with a few surprises along the way. Finally culminating in an Agatha Christie style dénouement with Dorothy gathering all those involved, including the two hapless detectives, into a room to expose the killer and their motive.
Promising to be the first in a series (I wonder if we’ll ever learn the Ghostwriter’s name?), this light and enjoyable cosy mystery should appeal to all those who will enjoy a classic golden age whodunnit with some additional modern touches.
With thanks to Kensington Books via Netaglley for a copy to read.