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About Charlotte MacLeod
Charlotte MacLeod (1922–2005) was an internationally bestselling author of cozy mysteries. Born in Canada, she moved to Boston as a child, and lived in New England most of her life. After graduating from college, she made a career in advertising, writing copy for the Stop & Shop Supermarket Company before moving on to Boston firm N. H. Miller & Co., where she rose to the rank of vice president. In her spare time, MacLeod wrote short stories, and in 1964 published her first novel, a children’s book called Mystery of the White Knight.
In Rest You Merry (1978), MacLeod introduced Professor Peter Shandy, a horticulturist and amateur sleuth whose adventures she would chronicle for two decades. The Family Vault (1979) marked the first appearance of her other best-known characters: the husband and wife sleuthing team Sarah Kelling and Max Bittersohn, whom she followed until her last novel, The Balloon Man, in 1998.
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A mislaid corpse strikes terror in the hearts of Boston's strangest family.
Like many old New England families, the Kellings live to die. Although their family vault is spacious and comfortable, for Sarah Kelling's Great-Uncle Frederick it will not do. In his will, he demands to be buried inside the ancient family tomb at Boston Common, which hasn't admitted a new member in over a century. But when the Kellings crack the old vault's door, they find a recently built brick wall. And behind it lays a surprisingly fresh corpse -- a skeleton with rubies in its teeth.
Her name was Ruby Redd, and many years ago she was the toast of Boston's burlesque scene. Her murder case is ice cold, but when Sarah begins investigating it, she finds that the burning passions behind this beauty's death still burn white hot. With the help of art-fraud investigator Max Bittersohn, she will solve the stripper's murder, or take her own place in the family vault.
On Groundhog Day, secrets surface alongside a waterlogged corpse.
The rural town of Balaclava greets Groundhog Day as an excuse for one last cold-weather fling. The students and faculty of the local agricultural college drink cocoa, throw snowballs, and, when the temperature allows, ice skate. Oozak's Pond is not quite frozen this year, though, and as the Groundhog Day celebrations reach their peak, the students see someone bobbing through the ice. The drowning victim is long past help, though; he's badly decomposed and dressed in an old-fashioned frock coat with a heavy rock in each pocket.
First on the scene is Peter Shandy, horticulturalist and, when the college requires it, detective. But solving this nineteenth-century murder will take more than Shandy's knack for rutabagas. Relying on his wife's expertise in local history, the professor dives into a gilded-age mystery that cloaks secrets that remain potent enough to kill.
Long-lost relatives and priceless jewels turn a wedding upside down.
For all the Kellings' quirks, no other family in Boston is more adept at throwing a wedding. So when Max Bittersohn's wife, Sarah Kelling, offers to organize his nephew's nuptials, Max is smart enough to stay out of her way. But when the art-fraud investigator stumbles onto a family mystery, he is drawn into something far more serious than the question of who will catch the bouquet.
Stolen years earlier, the priceless Kelling jewels were last seen in Amsterdam, so how did they end up among the wedding gifts? Max is trying to answer that question when a talkative burglar wallops him with a shovel in a failed attempt to rip off the rubies. Then, as the reception winds down, a hot-air balloon lands on the wedding tent, spilling out the Zickerys, a branch of the Kelling clan who prove even odder than the original strain. Family weddings are never easy, but for Max Bittersohn, this one could be murder.
One of Boston's landmark museums is shaken by a savage murder.
When the doddering patrons of the Wilkins Museum learned that dozens of their priceless masterworks had been stolen and replaced by forgeries, there was no one to turn to but Sarah Kelling and Max Bittersohn -- the savviest art detectives of the Boston upper crust. Nabbing the crooks was easy, but finding the missing paintings has proven trickier. Years later, the collection's prized Titian is still lost, and the new director, loudmouthed cattle baron Elwyn Fleesom Turbot, is getting impatient. And things get even more troublesome when members of his staff begin to die.
It starts when Dolores Tawne, the elderly, bossy museum administrator, is stabbed through the base of her skull with an antique hatpin. Inside the dead woman's safe deposit box Sarah finds clues to a conspiracy that stretches back decades and a way to stop the murders that are still to come.
A master forger has come to Boston, and his clients are not long for this world.
If she weren't so fabulous, the Countess Lydia Ouspenska might be considered a gangster's moll. The last time she met Max Bittersohn, Boston's famed art-fraud investigator, she was forging minute Byzantine masterpieces to make ends meet. But when Max bumps into her on the Common, the Countess is back on her feet. She has taken up with Bartolo Arbalest, a master forger currently masquerading as an art restorer. And as Bittersohn knows all too well, even the most genteel fraudster cannot be trusted.
With the help of his wife, Sarah, Max looks for the secret lair of Bartolo's supposed restoration guild. But when the guild's clients begin to die, it becomes clear there is more at stake than a few fabricated icons. The art may be fake, but for Max and Sarah the danger is very real.
When a museum guard takes a tumble, Sarah and Max find a forgery.
It has only been a few months since Sarah Kelling's elderly husband passed away, and she is struggling to adapt to life as a penniless young widow. To make ends meet, she converts her stately Boston home into a boardinghouse, a decision that brings something even better than money: the company of art-fraud investigator Max Bittersohn. The budding couple is standing on a balcony, recovering from a second-rate concert at a third-rate museum, when something plummets past them. The museum has been robbed, and a guard has fallen to his death.
Dozens of priceless paintings have been stolen and replaced with forgeries, and to recover these masterworks will mean tearing the lid off the quiet life of the Boston upper crust. But it is a chance Sarah and Max must take, lest they join the guard on his long trip down.
Newly widowed Sarah opens a boardinghouse where death comes to stay.
Though the inheritance from her dearly departed Alexander was meant to set Sarah Kelling up for life, it vanishes quickly in the face of hounding from charitable organizations and the IRS. Facing the loss of her stately Back Bay brownstone, Sarah opens her home to lodgers -- deciding she prefers a boardinghouse to the poorhouse. Soon she is cooking meals and serving tea for a cast of quirky residents, a cozy little family that would be quite happy were it not for the unpleasant presence of a certain Barnwell Augustus Quiffen -- a man so rude that no one really minds when he is squashed beneath a subway car.
Sarah replaces her lost boarder quickly, and the family dynamic is restored. But when another lodger dies suddenly, the boardinghouse appears to be cursed. Now it will take more than a glass of sherry to soothe Sarah's panicked residents, and she must turn to detective Max Bittersohn for help before her boarders bolt.
On an island of misfit artists, it's Aunt Emma's turn to play detective.
Though a few years past sixty, Sarah Kelling's Aunt Emma is as vigorous as a girl of twenty-two. She sings, she dances, and when the local fire department needs a fundraising boost, she's happy to jump out a window for charity. This summer, she decamps to Maine, to beat the heat at an island retreat for artists and great thinkers. There are writers, painters, a psychic, and a historian, and their company promises to be great fun -- until a few of them go treasure-crazy.
Sensible people have long dismissed rumors of the Pocapuk Island treasure as myth, but artists are seldom sensible. When their rampant digging stirs up buried trouble, it leads to theft, drugging, and a murder. And although Sarah and her husband Max give investigative advice by phone, it's up to Aunt Emma to save the islanders from themselves.
While searching for a stolen Rolls Royce, Sarah and Max find a dead gardener at a Renaissance fair.
Sarah Kelling and her husband, Max Bittersohn, have made names for themselves tracking down stolen paintings, sculptures, and, when necessary, the occasional murderer. But this is the first time they have been asked to find a missing Rolls Royce. When Bill Billingsgate's prize 1927 New Phantom disappears, they head for his estate on the Massachusetts coast, arriving -- to their horror -- just in time for Billingsgate's annual Renaissance fair. Donning period dress, they grab pints of mead and start searching the crowd for the thief. Instead they find a corpse.
When the local police bungle the investigation, Max and Sarah take it upon themselves to find the killer. In the course of their search, they confront a car thief, corruption at a radio station, and a horde of murderous bees. If this is the Renaissance, Max and Sarah can't wait to return to the present.
A homeless man's murder threatens to destroy the Kelling family.
Boston and its suburbs are stuffed with Kellings, and the city is about to get one more. Sarah Kelling and her husband Max Bittersohn -- a pair of amateur sleuths equally at home in back alleys as they are at black-tie balls -- are about to have a baby. And if the child takes after his parents, he will be one of the cleverest infants in New England. But while Sarah is a month away from giving birth, she cannot let pregnancy slow her down -- she has a murder to solve.
A resident at one of Sarah's Uncle Dolph's homeless centers is found mugged and murdered on one of Boston's seedier side streets. Someone at the shelter has been dealing drugs, and plans to frame Uncle Dolph for the murder. Now Sarah and Max must race to clear Dolph's name, lest the newest Kelling arrive before his family honor can be restored.
For Professor Ungley, death isn't half as inconvenient as losing his toupee.
An unpleasant man in every respect, university professor Herbert Ungley is exceedingly vain. One morning, his landlady catches her cat coming in with Ungley's hairpiece between its teeth. It's clear something has happened to the old grouch, because he would never be caught without his toupee.
Ungley is found in the yard behind his social club, with his head bashed in and his baldness plain for the world to see. Although the police are content to call it an accident, sleuthing horticulturalist Peter Shandy is unconvinced, and finds there are too many unanswered questions. How did Ungley come to have such a bulging bank account? Who was Ungley's long-lost heir, and what did he have to do with the professor's lost hair? And whose is the second body in the woods? Shandy must answer these questions and more if he's to find who pulled the rug out from the balding corpse.
Chasing a vile English plant, Professor Peter Shandy and his friends go on a most peculiar trip.
The giant hogweed, a creeping menace known for crushing the life out of any plant foolish enough to get in its way, has put the hedgerows and pastures of the English countryside in jeopardy. Fishermen find their streams clogged, young lovers are caught with rashes in embarrassing places, and the English nudist colony has been all but exterminated. Only Peter Shandy, the famed horticulturalist responsible for the world's finest rutabaga, can save the day. But when Shandy and his colleagues set out to find hogweed samples, they stumble into an unusually mystical adventure.
Quite by accident, Shandy trips through a publican's portal, and finds himself conversing with a giant. Trapped in a land of castles, wizards, and knights, Shandy must use every scrap of his horticultural genius to get back home -- lest the hogweed triumph in his absence.