I’m a big fan of Barbara Ross’s Maine Clambake mysteries. When I heard she had a new series coming out last year, featuring Jane Darrowfield, I was delighted. The series opener, Jane Darrowfield, Professional Busybody, which released last year through Barnes & Noble, and this year in wide release, was even better than expected. The second adventure in the series, Jane Darrowfield and the Madwoman Next Door, is both delightful and frightening.
Jane is retired. Determined not to wither away, she has a business as a professional busybody, helping people with problems that don’t necessarily make sense for law enforcement. She’s an older protagonist who is not a cliché. She has a rich life with her friends, her garden, her business, and her growing relationship with her lover, Harry. She’s hurt by the estrangement with her son. She’s a real person dealing with changes in her life, not a trope in a formula, which is one of the reasons the series is so refreshing.
In this case, her young, successful neighbor, who recently bought the house next door, hired Jane because she’s having blackouts and hearing voices. She’s not sure if someone is harassing her or if she’s going crazy. She has a state-of-the-art smart house, with every electronic comfort possible, and even a panic room.
Jane takes the case, which escalates when Megan disappears. Megan has a successful, ruthless father, an estranged mother recovering from addiction, a best friend in the office who might not be what he seems, and a security system so complicated it needs constant service by the area’s technician.
As Jane follows each step and each lead with determination, fortitude, and an eye for detail, the web around Megan grows more complex, surprising, and frightening. As a single woman reading the book, Megan’s danger hit close to home. It’s a modern twist on the old story of betrayal of trust. The sympathy she feels for Megan’s estranged mother, mirrored by her own estrangement from her son is beautifully, delicately handled. The book is engaging and frightening, and ultimately hopeful. I loved it, read it straight through in one sitting, and am already looking to the next book.
This book is available exclusively through Barnes and Noble here.