The Famous DAR Murder Mystery / Graham Landrum
This is a delightful book, not so much because of the mysterious body that turns up, but because of the way author Graham Landrum builds his characters. With gentle good humor, he lets the ladies of the fictional Old Orchard Fort Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution speak for themselves as the relate how they discovered the body and solved the crime — something local law enforcement officials would not and could not do.
The women, all in their 50s and older, are the nicest, most patriotic souls on earth, but they're not above being snippy (they would say honest) and, therefore, unintentionally hilarious.
Here's a report from Harriet Bushrow, 86, who contributes to the effort by keeping watch on one of the suspects through a telescope set up on a fellow DAR's back porch.
"If anyone thinks we are just a bunch of nosy old women to set up an ‘observation post’ — that's a good thing to call it — they don't know what they are thinking about. People talk about what is wrong with our government and communities and all that; but if they don't do anything about it, they are just as guilty of tearing down our country as the people they object to. Our patriot heroes did something about the things that were wrong at the time; and if they hadn't, we'd still be paying a tax on tea. (Come to think of it, I believe we still do, only they call it the sales tax.)"
Harriet, though a bit frail, was along when the DARs visited a remote cemetery on the Virginia/Tennessee border. They had been looking for the grave of a Revolutionary War soldier, but the man they found was much more recently deceased.
Regent Helen Delaporte quickly spotted a discrepancy: While the body wore ragged clothes, the hands were soft and neatly manicured, with calloused fingertips. Could it be a musician? Why was he there? Who killed him, and why?
What happens next is quite a romp, one that readers will enjoy whether they have ties to the DAR or not. And I know DAR members love it — members of the local Yamhill Chapter, DAR, recommended it to me.
"The Famous DAR Murder Mystery," by Graham Landrum, 1992, St. Martin's Press.