Tuesday, May 29, 2012
IN BRIEF: The Lord Have Mercy - Shelley Smith
The focus is on Editha Mansbridge, the shrewish wife of the town doctor, who is both an object of desire and a target of derision. The US paperback reprint takes advantage of this persona in an edition retitled The Shrew is Dead. When Editha dies unexpectedly of an apparent drug overdose the rumor mill begins churning up story after story. Suicide, accident and murder plots are intermingled with whispered discussions of marital infidelity and same-sex wantonness.
Smith enjoys creating a multiple vignettes with ultra minor characters. Some of the more amusing ones involve a small army of old biddies seated at their sitting room windows with binoculars and notebooks and the tea time gossip sessions that follow their Gladys Kravitz acts. Other highlights include a feuding lesbian couple, Naomi and Crispin, who spend much of their time arguing over Crispin's attempts at luring Editha into an adulterous affair; and the surprise visit of Harry, Editha's rogue brother, always in need of money and his eventual hook-up with a lonely widow who he cajoles into helping him finance a brothel.
However, when the revelation of who is responsible for Editha's demise comes it does so anti-climatically. A final ambiguous sentence left me in a daze rather than having the story resolved satisfactorily.