cover image The PMS Outlaws

The PMS Outlaws

Sharyn McCrumb. Ballantine Books, $24 (304pp) ISBN 978-0-345-38231-3

This mild-mannered mystery, number nine in the Elizabeth MacPherson series from versatile writer McCrumb (Bimboes of the Death Sun; If I'd Killed Him When I Met Him), is a humorous, fast-paced story. When we join MacPherson, she has just checked into the Cherry Hill Psychiatric Hospital to deal with depression brought on by the death of her husband. Meanwhile, struggling Virginia lawyer Bill MacPherson, Elizabeth's brother, has purchased an old mansion for his law firm's upscale office. The mansion comes with a catch: the elderly man who originally built the house (with apparently dubious funds) is still living on the sun porch. As Bill works out the real estate deal, his law partner, A.P. Powell, disappears to chase clues about the newly infamous PMS Outlaws, who have been stealing money from men and leaving them handcuffed in compromising positions. While the novel's many eccentric characters never fail to entertain, the mystery of the old man is little more than a distraction, both for the reader and for Elizabeth. As for the PMS Outlaws, they are completely transparent in their motivations: they want to get money and cut men down to size. What keeps the pages turning is the desire to see Elizabeth and Powell find their way out of their obsessions and back to their respective lives. McCrumb's gift is for making us care whether they do. Mystery Guild main selection; 6-city author tour. (Sept.)