Death as a Last Resort
by Gwendolyn Southin

TouchWood Editions, 2010. ISBN 978-1-926-74102-4.
Reviewed by Janet Caplan
Posted on 04/16/2010

Fiction: Mystery

This is the fourth in the Margaret Spencer Mystery series written by Gwendolyn Southin. The story, set in 1961, occurs in Vancouver and its surrounding mountainous terrain. Margaret and her professional as well as personal partner, Nat Southby, are private detectives involved, this time out, in solving the murder of Maurice Dubois, owner of a logging company.

It is the two of them who in fact discover the body, quite by accident, when they are cross-country skiing at the end of their Christmas holidays. They are subsequently hired by Maurice's wife, Jacquelyn, to solve the murder case. The action escalates quickly and what starts out as one murder case suddenly moves on to include Jacquelyn's killing as well. At this point, Maurice's children retain the detectives to solve both murders. Add to the mix the discovery of a smuggling ring bringing Egyptian artifacts into Canada and you have a very engaging story. The inevitable police involvement leads to increased entanglements for Spencer and Southby in trying to work the case.

Southin introduces a cast of characters who have known each other since the Second World War. Margaret or Maggie, as she's known, and Nat meet with them all as the detectives attempt to piece the various aspects of the case together. There are many plot twists and turns and all of this makes for a winning and fast-paced tale.

I thought that the story had enough ingredients to keep the reader's interest at all times. It seemed like a good, old-fashioned mystery that one might curl up with in front of a fire and get through in an evening: a page turner. This was a good, light read and I would imagine that the others in the series would be equally enjoyable. These include Death in a Family Way, In the Shadow of Death, and Death on a Short Leash.

Gwendolyn Southin, born in Essex, England now makes her home in Sechelt, on British Columbia's Sunshine Coast. She co-founded the region's writer-in-residence program as well as The Festival of the Written Arts. In edition to her Margaret Spencer series, Southin co-edited The Great Canadian Cookbook with Betty Keller. Her short stories have appeared in various publications.

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