In The 90s Club and the Hidden Staircase long-retired detective Nancy Dickenson, now in her nineties, moves into Whisperwood Retirement Village in the wooded mountains of Central West Virginia. She hopes to leave behind fears associated with living alone in her own home, fears such as dying and not being found for days. But she hasn’t lived at Whisperwood for long before she concludes that the place has an unusually high rate of deaths attributed to accidents, which themselves might seem natural for people of the residents’ ages but which nonetheless seem alarming in light of the fact that a retirement community should be designed with the residents’ safety in mind, as Whisperwood appears to be. The residents apparently accept the deaths as normal, but they are up in arms over thefts of personal effects, some valuable and some of only sentimental value. Nancy’s environmental-advocate friend, Louise—the reason Nancy chose Whisperwood—assures Nancy it’s a good place to live but, yes, recently troubled.
Or has Louise only noticed the trouble recently? Nancy and she ponder the question, since elderly people misplacing their things and having falling accidents that lead to death are matters that can occur unnoted—until too many have occurred. Nancy and Louise and Louise’s friend George form The 90s Club, a secret pact with the mission of getting to the bottom of whatever is happening at Whisperwood. But their secret doesn’t go unnoticed—and therein lies the rub. They, especially Nancy, known to be a retired detective, become a threat to residents and administrators alike, some innocent and some not so innocent.
The author brings us hope for a long, active life in which we will not become merely sentimental accoutrements to mainstream living. Nancy Dickenson faces the reality of her advanced age but does so with dignity and with the determination not to attribute to age matters so quickly attributed to it by others. An inactive body or mind at thirty has many of the problems of an inactive body or mind at ninety. Nancy swims everyday—which can be dangerous if there are people who would like to see you drown. Her mind is always active—which also can be dangerous if there are people who would rather you became a mental vegetable. Ah, the hazards inherent in getting to the bottom of things sinister, whatever one’s age.
The photo, above, of Morgantown, West Virginia, two hours from Whisperwood and a setting for some of Nancy’s detecting, is from Wikipedia.org, “MotownDOWNTOWN” by Myself – I (Zverzver (talk)) created this work entirely by myself. Via Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:MotownDOWNTOWN.PNG#mediaviewer/File:MotownDOWNTOWN.PNG.
Photo below from The Walking Cane Company blog, http://blog.walkingcaneco.com/index.php/tag/walking-cane/
In The 90s Club and the Whispering Statue, the second mystery in the series, detective emeritus Nancy Dickenson is called out of retirement in peaceful (and sometimes not so peaceful) West Virginia to help her friend Peter, who thinks someone at his condo complex in Ft. Lauderdale is trying to kill him. He’s had too many close calls for all to be accidents. Before Nancy leaves for Lauderdale, a neighbor asks for help finding her out-of-touch granddaughter, Jessica, last known to be relocating a yacht from Washington, DC to Lauderdale via the Intracoastal Waterway.
Nancy and sidekick Louise arrive at Peter’s apartment in Florida to find that Peter needs an ambulance. He’s been poisoned, although the police believe it was by his own accidental doing. From the hospital Peter goes into hiding at a friend’s place, while Nancy and Louise take up residence at Peter’s apartment in the company of his two slobbery mutts, part Pekingese, part Newfoundland. Our detecting ladies are surrounded by fellow-residents who act no more or less odd than, dear reader, you or I do at times. So who is behaving oddly because she or he is eccentric like us and who is behaving oddly because she or he has something to hide?
Their friend George arrives from West Virginia, completing the 90s Club trio that first organized itself when strange things were happening at their own Whisperwood Retirement Village, just as strange things are happening now at the Riverside Acres retirement condos. Detecting begins, including the search for the missing Jessica against the backdrop of beautiful Ft. Lauderdale, with its hundreds of marinas and Riverwalk Festival. In both 90s Club books the location functions almost as a character, and in each the location is one to which I’d never been taken by a writer before.
In The Whispering Statue, as in The Hidden Staircase, each chapter ends with an excerpt from the official rag of the retirement community administration. The irony of these short pieces adds immensely to the fun while also assuring the reader that he has, indeed, been there and helped solve the crime.
Ft. Lauderdale photo, above, by Jessie Eastland aka Robert DeMeo (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons