Scandal in Flat Skunk
When I was looking at a January with plenty of open spots on my reading schedule, I started looking at the series I’m behind on I haven’t read for a while. One that immediately jumped back onto my radar was the Connor Westphal series from Penny Warner, so I put A Quiet Undertaking on my nightstand.
If you aren’t familiar with this older series, Connor is a reporter for a weekly paper in the California Gold Country town of Flat Skunk. You’d think that this would be a quiet place to run a paper, even a weekly paper, but Connor keeps finding herself getting to exercise her investigative reporter skills when murder pops up.
But I haven’t mentioned the thing that sets Connor apart from the other sleuths I read about – she’s deaf. Fortunately for the story, she is good at lip reading, so she is able to conduct her own investigations.
Even Connor is shocked when she learns about a disturbing discovery at a nearby self-storage facility. The owner has discovered that one particular storage space contains human ashes that were supposed to be scattered at sea. Jasper Coyne had been hired to carry out this duty, but before he can answer any questions on what he was doing with the ashes and why, he is found dead near his houseboat.
Many of the ashes found were sent from the mortuary owned by Connor’s friend, Del Rey, so Connor uses getting the story for her paper as an excuse to help her friend get clear of the scandal. However, Del Rey has a few secrets of her own that make her look guilty. Can Connor find out what is really going on?
This was a premise that grabbed me from the first chapter and made me want to keep reading to find out what was going to happen next. There are lots of surprises and complications in this inventive plot along the way to the logical and suspenseful solution.
However, I do have to say, I was bothered by Connor’s behavior at times in this book, especially near the climax. I’m usually pretty forgiving of to stupid to live moments since how else are amateur detectives going to solve the case? Connor crossed that line in this book. Ultimately, it did help solve the case, but I couldn’t believe she’d do some of what she did here. That is balanced by plenty of times she did the right thing, which I appreciated. On the whole, this was a minor issue for me, but you might feel differently.
It’s a shame I felt that way because I do love Connor overall. She has not let her disability slow her down, and she is such a positive example of living life to the fullest. Her silent world is brought to life for us with wonderful writing, and it makes several suspenseful scenes even more suspenseful since Connor can’t hear what is going on around her.
The book is filled with colorful characters. I enjoyed getting to know the regulars better, and the suspects were memorable and fun.
While I do still consider this book a cozy, I do need to point out the foul language is more plentiful than usual, even by the standards of some of today’s cozies, which are pushing the envelope. Know this going in, and you’ll be fine.
I read the original paperback published in 2000 (yes, this book has been sitting on my to be read pile for quite a while), and there is a line early in the book that actually contained a spoiler for an even that we didn’t learn until later. It threw me since I couldn’t figure out how Connor came to that conclusion. Hopefully, that has been corrected for the ebook version.
Speaking of the date, yes, this book does take place over 20 years ago. While some characters have cell phones, Connor isn’t one of them yet since they were just phones back then. Talk about almost ancient history.
While I obviously have some nitpicks with this book, overall, I enjoyed A Quiet Undertaking. I’m glad I’m finally catching up on Connor’s adventures.
Enjoy the rest of the Connor Westphal mysteries.