My Review of
Chris Well's new mystery novel:
Nursing a Grudge
What's a grouchy old man to do when two women drag him from his assisted-living apartment to a clandestine chili party? He almost has fun -- until someone drops dead. But Earl Walker is the only one suspicious of the way the partygoer met his demise. Can he solve the puzzle -- and figure out his relationship with his new lady friend -- before the state shuts down the home and all the suspects move away?
Oh, my. A wonderful addition to the mystery world. Wells delivered with his usual ability, another book that keeps your attention. Who would have thought a mystery with a nursing home protagonist could be so overwhelmingly good?
When young and blundering Jenny Hutton with her inapt attempt at witnessing, forces her unwanted attention on crabby Earl Walker, sparks fly. She’s determined he should “get out”. He’s just as determined to stay in his rooms and watch any TV sitcom available. Keeping to himself so that he can keep his wife’s memory alive, will serve another purpose too: the less he has to do with others, the less trouble he’ll have to deal with. He didn’t blend with the activities and the other residents when he first came, and he doesn’t want to begin now.
When Jenny and Gloria, with the big red hair and new name for Earl (Blue Eyes), plot together for his good, they unknowingly push him into finding the murderer of the most unliked person at the home: George Kent. The problem is it could be any of the residents for they all have secrets that pertain to Kent. Can he locate that person before the home is closed down, and can he prove it?
Romance blossoms between Gloria and Earl, but is that what he wants? She has an overblown personality, but is attractive and friendly and makes his heart flutter (it’s not a heart attack, is it?). His lack of concern at dressing his best (for what he refuses to acknowledge is a date) is frustrating for poor Jenny. His feeble attempts at conversation with Gloria are touching.
Even danger enters the picture when Earl corners a fellow resident to ask questions. Obviously the murderer doesn’t like it, because Earl is almost killed with a knife.
The whole story takes several twists and turns, including blackmail, with Earl pointing a figurative finger at several residents, but at the last, when all evidence points to the one person that he’d rather it didn’t, he “confesses.” In his frustration at his own lack of ability to save that person, he finally turns to God.
One of the first things that caught my attention was Earl Walker’s personality. Well did a superb job letting that shine through, and I loved it. Yes, he was grouchy, but he was also smart, with a dry wit evidenced by his constant gentle harassment of do-gooder, Jenny Hutton.
A cute tidbit that I liked was how Jenny, so taken up at first, with one of the male employees that got fired, toward the end shrugs her shoulders, and eyes a different man. Coming from the point of view of an elderly person, it was a particularly funny piece of information about the fickleness of young love that added to Well’s book.
And the second part that enraptured me, was his ability to bring out the setting so well. Though there wasn’t an abundance of nursing home employees involved in the book, the whole atmosphere shone through perfectly. From the activities room to the exercise room, from the cafeteria to the disturbingly endless hallways, each part played a small, but integral part in bringing the setting to life.
Chris did an excellent job with this novel. The flow of the whole story, the individualistic development of his characters, the plot, all of it was written with a natural and smooth rhythm. I’d love to read more of his mysteries and look forward to it. He’s just shot to one of the top spots in my mystery writer’s list.