JAMES YAFFE – Mom Meets Her Maker. Mom (and son Dave) #2. St. Martin’s, hardcover, 1990. Worldwide, paperback, 1991.

   After appearing in eight short stories in EQMM between 1952 and 1968, Mom and her son Dave began a new career of sorts with a new series of full-length novels between 1988 and 1997. In these Dave has left his job as a NYPD police detective and moved to Mesa Grande, Colorado, to work as an investigator for the city’s public defender’s office.

   By book two (this one), Mom has decided that the big city has become too much to live in alone and has also moved to Mesa Grande. She still needs to be filled in on Dave’s cases, though, and as an armchair detective is quite a dedicated and quite welcome assistant.

   This one starts slowly. A Jewish couple have recently come under attack, if you will, by their next door neighbors, the Reverend Chuck Candy and his wife. Candy is the self-appointed pastor of Effulgent Apostles of Christ church, and for some reason this Christmas they have gone gonzo with flashing lights, brilliant decorations and carols booming from an outdoor loudspeakers. The Meyers, being Jewish, are not amused. Their son, trying to help out, goes over to see of some accommodations can be made, but instead he’s arrested for assault with a deadly weapon.

   As I say, a slow start. The first murder, that of Reverend Candy, does not occur until about seventy pages in, and for a devout reader of detective stories, the rest of the book is a doozy. Accused again is the Meyers’ son. Written on the rug where the minister’s body is found are the words “Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh.”

   A brief warning, should you ever pick this one up to read. You’ll have to read this one very, very carefully. It’s about the best example of a recently published mystery (well, thirty years ago), that’s also  a “fair play” mystery I’ve had the pleasure to read recently, written in prose that’s clear and continually to the point. I hesitate telling you more about the “dying message” because why should I spoil the pleasure for you?

   There are a couple of things I can express some unhappiness with, though. The villains of the piece are little more than straw men set up only to be disliked at once, if not outright hated. And you would think the bit of a “would-be informant refusing to tell what he knows until tomorrow” would have been retired a long time ago, but it never occurs to Dave or his boss that, well, you know.

   This one shouldn’t hard to find. Undue haste is probably not necessary, but if I’ve tempted you at all, that’s exactly what I think you should do.

PostScript: A Tip of the Hat to fellow blogger TomCat, whose rave review a week or so on his blog is what prompted me to track this one down myself.

      The Mom and Dave novels —

A Nice Murder for Mom (1988)
Mom Meets Her Maker (1990)
Mom Doth Murder Sleep (1991)
Mom Among the Liars (1992)
My Mother the Detective (1997)