When former banana-grower Edris Tidson hears of a possible sighting of a water-naiad he insists that his wife, her aunt Prissie, and Prissie’s young ward, Connie, travel with him to Winchester in search of the nymph. As tensions rise between Connie and Edris, Prissie invites part-time Freudian Mrs Bradley to join them and unofficially observe Edris and his growing obsession. Then two young boys are found drowned and speculation mounts that the naiad is luring them to their deaths. Can Mrs Bradley unravel the mysteries hidden within the river?
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It would have helped so much if the story made sense. I don't read Gladys Mitchell for the plots, I read them for the descriptions of the world of the time, and for the humor, which is often very good in a classically dry, subtle way. This story has those components and I really enjoyed them until about half way through. However, at that point I started to get annoyed at the stupidity of the "plot" as well as the obscurity of it, and eventually it has ruined it for me. Also, Mitchell has a truly savage side that I don't appreciate. SPOILER ALERT.....In this case I see no reason why the dog had to ever enter the story, much less be killed, and it poisoned the rest of the story for me. Mitchell is full of things like this, which is why I always go off her after a bit. She really seems to enjoy killing off children, as well, which I don't hold against her considering all her years as a school teacher, but I see no reason for cruelty to animals. These points will probably not bother a lot of people, but the lack of any kind of clarity of plot or resolution of plot is a problem that will bother most readers before the end, I think. It's like Mitchell ran out of ideas about half way through, so trudged obscurely around the same "plot" track for the second half of the book to make up the required number of words. Frankly, by the time I got to the last chapter I didn't care which of the suspects killed which of the victims, I hated them all and wanted to do them in personally. This feeling is not what I look for in a cozy, and even though Mitchell looks like a cozy in some superficial aspects, she really is not.
Sure, she continues to hook me with her wonderful descriptions, eccentric characters, and sparkling, razor sharp wit. I have to be up to her dark side, though, which is pronounced and untrustworthy. I also have to be in a mood not to care about plot, or really even to understand what the plot might have been.
I like Tomlinson's characterizations of most of the female characters very much. She doesn't do opposite sex very well, and all the males sound much the same, but the women are good, and she communicates a real enjoyment and appreciation of the prose. She has a lot of fun with the Scottish waiter.
As noted, I don't see any reason to bring the puppy into it, much less to murder him.