I’ve enjoyed Andre Norton’s sci-fi/fantasy books in the past, so when I saw a mystery with her name on it, I thought it had to be at least worth a try. It…kinda wasn’t.
Fredericka Wing is a librarian from the big city. She takes a job looking after a bookstore in rural Massachusetts while its owner is away. A week after she gets there, the body of the local lady everybody hated is found dead in her hammock. Since it’s a small town, everybody is a suspect, except to Fredericka, who blithely wanders off into the woods or to dinner or wherever with anybody who stops by the bookstore to ask her. She’s cranky and peevish, but too afraid to be alone in an unfamiliar place. She’s kinda mean to everyone, but the local handsome crimesolving professor of course develops a serious case of the flirts. Clues are investigated, villains are apprehended, blah blah blah.
I signed up for a half Cannonball this year, so I told myself I didn’t have to review the ‘meh’ ones, but I wanted to ask you guys a question. How much leeway do you give an older book before you decide it’s too racist/sexist/whatever? This book was written in 1953, and maybe set a little earlier. The sexism is bad (at one point Fredericka is astonished that a visiting cop is able to fetch his own coffee – she’s so proud of him it’s stupid), but Chris, who works at the bookstore, is never referred to as anything but “the Negro servant.” He’s also the only one in the book who talks in any sort of dialect. “I was jess fixin’ ta cut the lawn,” kind of thing. It got to the point of ‘if she reminds me he’s a Negro servant one more time…’ So when is it forgivable because ‘they didn’t know any better,’ and when are you just done reading?