STEFANIE MATTESON – Murder on High. Charlotte Graham #6. Berkley, hardcover, 1994; paperback; 1995. eBook: Mysterious Press/Open Road, June 2016.

   Though it’s the seventh [sic] Charlotte Graham book, it’s the first hardcover, and Berkley is going to do an East Coast author tour. Mattheson was a journalist at one time, winning several awards for her reporting in science and medicine.

   Charlotte Graham is a well-known seventy-ish actress, not retired but taking a break in Maine while she finishes her autobiography. Her procrastinations in that regard are interrupted when an old friend now a Lieutenant in the State Police takes her to view the home of a woman recently killed in a fall from a mountain and now suspected to have been murdered.

   The woman proves to have been the screenwriter for many of Charlotte’s most successful pictures, a woman blacklisted in the Communist witch hunts of the 50s. What has she been doing that’s gotten her killed, and who to?

   There’s a cozy convention that I can ever get past, one that causes me persistent discomfort — that of a police officer using a civilian as an “assistant.” Yes, yes, I know that all genres have their conventions, but some of them I can stomach and some I don’t. This one I can’t, at least to the degree that its use severely limits my enjoyment of the book.

   Matteson is a smooth writer, Graham is an engaging character, I liked the Maine setting, the other characters were interesting, and I would have enjoyed the book, but — the idea of a Lieutenant in the State Police dragging a 70 year old woman around with him, introducing his to everyone as his “assistant,” and giving her critical police work to do just doesn’t cut it.

   If I want fairy tales, I’ll re-read Grimm. Or maybe Robert Parker.

— Reprinted from Ah Sweet Mysteries #15, September 1994.

The Charlotte Graham series —

1. Murder at the Spa (1990)
2. Murder at Teatime (1991)
3. Murder on the Cliff (1991)
4. Murder on the Silk Road (1992)
5. Murder at the Falls (1993)
6. Murder on High (1994)
7. Murder Among the Angels (1996)
8. Murder Under the Palms (1997)