The Trouble with Harriet

The Trouble with Harriet was the first of Dorothy Cannell’s books I have read. Set in England, it is a story of con artists and murders. The story itself was a good mystery and comedy combination: the story of an older man conned into a romance while in Germany, only to be told his beloved had died in a car crash, then requested to take her ashes back to her family in England. The Trouble with Harriet is a little like a cozy mystery, but not close enough for me to put it in that genre.

There was a large cast of quirky characters that included a kleptomaniac aunt, a self-absorbed cousin, an impertinent housekeeper who I kept wishing would be fired, and many others. The character development was superb, but annoyingly well-described. Unfortunately, with the exception of Freddie, the self-absorbed cousin, all the characters spoke in nonessential, archaic, flowery language.

More and more common these days is the inclusion of public health information in novels:  this time it was comments about tobacco use, such as the reference to a man who “looked as he did” because his health was “shot” after a lifetime of smoking. On a separate topic, and much to my delight, I found only three split infinitives.

 What Makes This Book Reviewer Grumpy?

 It took far longer to read this book than I normally do, as I got bogged down in all the superfluous language, and unnecessarily lengthy description of places, furnishings, people, feelings, and behaviors.

  • The huge number of sentences beginning with the conjunctions “and” (123) and “but” (49) was extremely distracting – and I didn’t count all of them. Most of them involved two sentences that should have been one sentence with a conjunction in the middle.
  • There were a few sentence fragments that should have been included in the preceding sentence;
  • Incorrect verb tense:  using “showed” instead of “shown”;
  • Improper placement of the word “only” within a sentence — it changes the meaning of the sentence;
  • Statements ending with question marks led me to re-read them to be sure I hadn’t missed something.