Miss Dimple Suspects [Review II]
“. . . a reason to celebrate.”
If the thought of reading a cozy mystery, let alone a southern cozy makes your teeth ache like you forgot to brush with Sensodyne, try Mignon Ballard’s Miss Dimple Suspects. It’s well written, has a good plot, and may change your mind.
Miss Dimple Kilpatrick, teacher in the small town of Elderberry Georgia, is part of a search party looking for one of her students, Peggy, who ran off to look for her cat. It’s December, and even in Georgia, it gets dark and cold. Dimple finally finds the sick child on the side of a treacherous hill, pitted with rocks and holes that make the journey home impossible. A dog shows up and leads them to the home of his mistress, the artist Martha Mae Hawthorne and her companion Suzy.
Dimple and Peggy spend the night and luckily for them Suzy is a doctor, because Peggy’s tonsillitis has flared up, becoming life threatening.
Unfortunately, this is 1943 and Suzy is Japanese American. When Martha Mae is murdered, it’s easy to blame the outsider—especially when Suzy is nowhere to be found.
When anti-Japanese sentiment rears its ugly head in town, a fellow teacher muses why Japanese Americans were put into internment camps, when neither Italian Americans nor German Americans met the same fate. Miss Dimple surmises “because they look different.”
Miss Dimple has convinced her two former students—Annie and Charlie, now teachers themselves—that Suzy did not kill Mae Martha. And the three set out to find out whodunit.
The search for suspects to clear Suzy is short, way too short. Why would Mae Martha’s nephews kill the goose that lay the golden egg? They make money off her paintings; as long as she produces, they profit. Then there’s mysterious milk and egg lady no one ever sees, but what’s her motive?
Despite her odd name (something the author has no doubt dealt with herself) Dimple is reminiscent of a grown-up Nancy Drew—brave, loyal, and smart. With most men off at war, the book is a tribute to the women who pulled together for the war effort. They ran the machines at the munitions factory, made do with rations, and prayed that the war would return their sons, husbands, and fathers.
Simpler times, perhaps, but Miss Dimple Suspects shows that the triumph of resilience and fortitude always provide a reason to celebrate.