Review by: Destiny J. Constantin
“Mrs. Peabody might be a busy body and a snoop, but her curiosity had probably given her some clues. Kate had made a bad mistake, telling Joanne about what Mrs. Peabody had discovered and by admitting that Mrs. Peabody was headed for the Finster Mansion.” ~Marianna Heusler, Mrs. Peabody’s Party Line
*I received a free copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.
Mrs. Peabody’s Party Line is an entertaining, page-turner, comical, and charming cozy murder mystery written by Edgar’s nominated writer, Marianna Heusler. She has published hundreds of short stories and eight novels with various writing styles, including supernatural, mystery, and fantasy. She is a new author for me, but I love a good cozy mystery novel, and mysteries are what I love to read and write. I absolutely loved this book, and I enjoyed reading it from the first page to the last. Mrs. Peabody’s Party Line is full of town secrets, adventure, and suspense and is different from other murder mystery stories I have read. It reminded me of a mystery book I read a while ago titled, Murder, Curlers, and Cream by Arlene McFarlane.
Mrs. Peabody’s Party Line is about a widow named Mrs. Nancy Peabody who has minimal means. Her life is tedious and lonely, so she can’t avoid the temptation offered by the party line she shares with two of her neighbors. The story takes place in a small town called Honeyspoon in the late 1950s. The story’s setting makes it unique and brings a charming character to the story, like how crown molding brings personality to a house. It took me a little time to understand the phone system due to my age, but I remember seeing it on an episode of Murder, She Wrote. When someone calls the line, it rings once, twice, or three times to designate which household the call is for, but anyone on the party line can pick up on every call and listen in on your conversation. Mrs. Peabody likes to listen to everyone’s phone calls, but she has to pick up the phone just right so nobody knows she’s on too. After a while, her neighbors figure out that she was listening to their conversations. Because of that, her reputation as a gossip and busybody was common knowledge throughout the town of Honeyspoon.
Honeyspoon is a quaint small town that has never witnessed violence or a violent death until a body is found in the library hours after comic books were stolen in the children’s library. Mrs. Peabody and everyone in the town is shocked, and gossip about who has done something like this quickly spreads. Mrs. Peabody’s reputation puts her in danger when she begins to stick her nose into other people’s business. After She tells the authorities about a threatening note she received, the police officer doesn’t take her seriously, but the murderer does, leading to more deaths. When Mrs. Peabody discovers something at the library while researching an event at the Finster Mansion that occurred a couple of years ago, she and her little dog become the killer’s next target.
The author did a fantastic job developing the characters in this delightful murder mystery story. The protagonist, Nancy Peabody, is a spunky, strong, older woman who does her best to take care of herself with her money. I loved how the author brought the small town to life with her sensory details and descriptions of the town square and the characters’ clothing and eating at the diner. It brought the setting of the 1950s to life, and I could imagine it as I read the chapters. When an author adds those little elements, it makes the reader connect with the characters more. Mrs. Peabody’s neighbor has their own backstory and characteristics that allow the reader to know them and think about if they could be the killer because of their secrets and mysterious behaviors. The secondary characters are full of personality and so well developed, just like the main characters, I couldn’t tell that they were secondary characters.
The dynamics of Mrs. Peabody and Andrew are both heartwarming and sweet. Andrew is one of the boys she babysits for Connie and Bill Maloney. She tries to comfort the children when their father is accused of one of the murders. She takes good care of the boys, but the funniest part of the story is when she steals snacks for herself when the boys are distracted by the television or in their rooms. I like how Mrs. Peabody rescues a little dog and calls him Oliver. The dog brightens up her day and keeps her company.
This murder mystery story is like no other because of all the events that happen before you learn who’s the killer, which I never saw coming. Kate’s old boyfriend being released from prison, a second murder, and the mysterious letters all contribute to the story’s suspense and keep you wanting to read. I don’t want to spoil the story for you, so I’ll just say I never suspected that one of the town’s board members is responsible for more than one murder. I guess money and being betrayed by someone you love changes your way of thinking.
Heusler did a fantastic job with the pacing of the plot. I loved that the ending didn’t happen abruptly. She added Mrs. Peabody going to visit Kate at the library to search for a picture of an event at the Finster Mansion a few years ago, leading her to a fascinating discovery and Mrs. Peabody going to the Finster Mansion at night time to look for clues. When Mrs. Peabody is climbing up the stairs in the mansion late at night, it gave me the chills because I thought that someone would pop up behind her any moment. The killer’s reveal is one of my favorite scenes because of how the author describes it, and I can feel the character’s emotion and picture what is happening.
Overall, this story was amazing to read. I enjoyed it very much. It had all the elements of a good mystery. If you like assertive heroines, laugh-out-loud dialogue, and juicy secrets, you’ll love Marianna Heusler’s creative story!
I hope there’s another book to this mystery series coming out soon!