Oh my. Another one of those yummy covers which makes me want to leap into its picture and soak up the art.
The luxurious color-combo is literally healing in its delicious hue-intensity with primal-contrast; the design paints an addictive, nouveau-uplift on historic mysteries; the tangy texture of raised print nudges fingers to slide over the face; the extra flap-under-cover is welcoming, exposing the publisher's commitment to the book's value. Love the way the crescent moon leads the eye to the yellow light in an upstairs window on the brick mansion, then to the flapping pink curtain. Love how these image icons are repeated from the external scenes into the upstairs bathroom as itchy fingers open the flap. Drool. Slurp.
Churchill's confidence gracefully shows itself as the plot rhythm and character development eases off to a tattoo of Lilly, John, and support cast unhurriedly discussing life and politics. The story doesn't need to surge into a mystery mode until around page 37 of the paperback, when the murder is up. The event is staged with panache, and the characters hop to; shifting effortlessly into a hot-step jazz. I didn't quite notice I had been taken for a ride; but, of course, that's what I was there for.
The mystery kicks in, a la Agatha Christie; it's easy to see why Churchill's been compared to Miss Christie, even said to have surpassed the Master.
The story hums along smoothly in a snappy beat; so much so that, once the story ends, the reader is left with the stillness of true silence. The feeling is like that of a refrigerator compressor, humming as un-noticed "white noise" in the background. Once the motor stops, however, a warm body having been resting in the soothing, active presence is abruptly transported from what he had adjusted to as an ongoing reality in a cozily buzzing cocoon, into the empty exaggeration of the chill of motionless existence.
Sometimes that cessation of refrigerator-type-buzz is felt as relief.
Other times it is felt as a loss carrying a nearly overwhelming sense of grief.
When the hum of the mystery-in-process in LOVE FOR SALE culminates at the final period on the last page, there's a feeling of "Oh no, don't end, not yet."
This is the call of the cozy mystery sub-genre, a call which is heard and answered, in this novel especially.
Maybe it's the live-in quality of this sub-genre which somehow gives it the right (or the necessity) to continue, in ongoing, addictive series. Though the act of murder is as far from cozy as a warm body can get, maybe the desire for it's resolution and ultimate cessation is nurtured within that culture of comfort.
If that desire grows strong enough, might triumph and redemption win in our species?
See what type of contemplation Churchill's "simple" cozy, LOVE FOR SALE, can elicit from the soul of a reader who loves a good mystery resolved well?
Not wanting to conclude before mentioning some of the unique pulls of this story, I'll note that Chief Walker, the investigator, does not typically fade into the background as the amateur sleuth does the real work of exposing the dirt. Walker is an unusually warm, hired servant of justice, who methodically, yet compassionately walks determinedly, unwaveringly through his job. He's like a Columbo without the build up of bungle. In a typical Churchill character draw, Chief Walker is easy to be with, non-assuming, not a tough guy, just endearingly responsible in a step-by-step sort of way. He serves people simultaneously to serving justice.
I was intrigued by the hits here and there of the historic setting, when radio knobs are tuned for updates on "what's going on," instead of Remote Controls aimed and fired; when rarely made, heavily assisted by the Operator, long-distance phone calls are required, instead of flip-open cell phones lifted from humongous purses. Then there's the political pull of presidents elected, with the plot opening and closing as characters discuss and deal with Roosevelt in process of taking the gantlet from Truman.
Jill Churchill must have a worm hole or time machine somewhere in her closet, to be able to successfully work two mystery series, which are ages and universes apart in culture and style. I hope she never allows any discouragement lurking "In The Still of The Night" to break down the reality between her creativity and its deserved manifestation.
Well done, lady!
Linda G. Shelnutt