I’ve always been quite the fan of the Dick Francis-Phyllis Whitney kind of mystery and mayhem. Controlled, carefully crafted stories that draw me in little by little, without the gore and violence that so many novels feature. Well, move over Francis and Whitney and make room for R. D. Pounds.
Pounds’ newest novel introduces the Any Agency, located in New Mons, Illinois, and its new proprietor, sophisticated, globetrotting Anna Bradford. Anna grew up in New Mons, but has come to help her Uncle Herb and Aunt Hilde face retirement. To make their transformation from working private investigators to private citizens easier, Anna buys the Any Agency, planning to close it down. Her global investigation business has offices in Berlin and San Francisco, and she feels sure that by the time her aunt and uncle return from the Alaskan cruise she gave them, she will be ready to leave New Mons and the “kids”—an endearing cat and German shepherd—and return to her much wider world.
Pounds begins to layer in the suspense detail by intricate detail. Someone in a red pickup tailgates Anna, but events begin to suggest more than a simple drunk driver. And almost immediately, a dashing but mysterious client pleads with Anna to save his “aunt” from a neighborhood that has taken up arms to abolish her cherished backyard garden, replete with overgrown plants and a tangle of wild violets. Small town gossips and small town problems, Anna thinks—until she realizes the passions and secrets are darker and stronger than anyone knows. When murder turns up on her doorstep, the investigation is suddenly anything but trivial disagreements among neighbors and friends.
Pounds’ attention to detail is amazing, and her knowledge of human foibles and continental culture and delicacies contribute to a rich setting and memorable characters. From the venerable Klaus, who taught Anna to succeed on a world-wide investigative state to the vulnerable young assistant, Tim Stettin, characters participate in the events that become an intriguing mix of humor, mystery, and murder.
Wild Violets is entertaining and intriguing, and R.D. Pounds has created a story reminiscent of a grand tradition, too often ignored in the violence-driven world of many mysteries.