There may be a more unlikely sleuth than Hetty Wainthropp, but you'd be hard-pressed to find one. A woman "of a certain age," Hetty has no previous experience in the detecting business -- unless you count ferreting out the local gossip in her Manchester neighborhood. But that doesn't stop her from hanging out her shingle as a private eye. After all, she's got a talent for finding the needle of truth in a haystack of lies, and a sincere desire to help neighbors in need.
Hetty doesn't solve crimes so much as dispense justice. She specializes in cases which seem too trivial for the police and perhaps don't even appear to involve lawbreaking, but which clearly hinge on a wrong that must be put right. And there's no one better at setting a miscreant straight than Hetty Wainthropp, with her moral certitude, salt-of-the-earth candor and, when necessary, fully-loaded handbag , just the ticket for beaning some sense into a particularly recalcitrant scoundrel.
Because she leaves the major criminal cases to the pros, Hetty has a cordial relationship with the police. She's able to pursue her career with their tolerance, if not always their cooperation. She does get some support -- usually of the moral variety -- from her husband, Robert, even as he frets that she may get herself into deep trouble if she's not careful.
More practical assistance comes from Geoffrey Shorecross, the only other employee of the Wainthropp Detective Agency and something of a surrogate son to Hetty and Robert. Geoffrey even occupies the bedroom that used to belong to the Wainthropp's son, now married and living in Australia. Geoffrey's youthful energy allows him to do some of the legwork that the slower but shrewder Hetty might find difficult to manage -- that is, when he isn't distracted by his efforts to impress girls. But that's a fault his employer can forgive -- unlike the sins committed by those whom Hetty Wainthropp investigates.
The preceding is an excerpt taken from the book,
MYSTERY!: A Celebration, by Ron Miller
(published by KQED Books).
For more information, visit Shop.