Benson is a Chicago-based Renaissance man. He is the author of more than 40
books, including thrillers, suspense, and several titles in the continuation of
the James Bond franchise. His The James Bond Bedside
Companion (Dodd, Mead, 1984) was shortlisted for an Edgar. Dark Side of the Morgue (Leisure Books, 2009) was nominated for
a Shamus Award. In addition, he’s a computer game designer, a music composer,
and a college lecturer in film.
His latest book The Mad, Mad Murders
of Marigold Way (Beaufort Books, October 2022) is an interesting, if
somewhat annoying, experiment in novel structure. Told chronologically day by
day, it describes the events of a week or so in May 2020 in a northern suburb
of Chicago. Scott Hatcher, a former television writer and now a struggling novelist,
along with everyone else in that first spring of COVID, is anxious and isolated
and apprehensive. He awakens one spring day to find his wife gone. They hadn’t
been getting along especially well, so he assumes she’s off for a long walk. Or
something. Finally, after he checks with her friends who haven’t seen her and
he finds her purse and billfold in the kitchen, he calls the police to report
The police ask how well his wife knows
the Bergmans across the street. It seems Rachel Bergman reported her husband
missing that day. The police believe that the two have eloped. Until their
bodies are found in an empty house along with cases of the personal protective
equipment that was in such short supply in 2020.
itself is original and the characters are striking in their realism. The
neighborhood teenage troublemaker, the weird loner, the perennial gardener, and
the busybody neighbor. Hatcher is likable if naïve; I found myself hoping he
would work through the chaos of the murders and the pandemic. Those early days
of the virus when we had no idea of what we were dealing with are re-created in
the story offbeat is the unseen and unidentified omniscient narrator who says
he is similar to the Stage Manager in the play Our Town by Thornton
Wilder. This narrator inserts himself into the story and editorializes
liberally. When the police arrive at a resolution of the murders, the narrator
steps in to relate to the reader a few scenes that were omitted in the original
telling. This “oh and another thing” follow-up is bothersome even if it does
provide key information.
I liked the story line, the setting, and the characters, and I really disliked the structure. Reviews on Goodreads and Amazon are mixed. Starred review from Publishers Weekly.
Publisher: Beaufort Books
(October 4, 2022)
Hardcover: 350 pages
Aubrey Nye Hamilton ©2022
Aubrey Hamilton is a former librarian who works on
Federal It projects by day and reads mysteries at night.