cover image Dead Crazy

Dead Crazy

Nancy Pickard. Scribner Book Company, $0 (276pp) ISBN 978-0-684-18761-7

Last seen in Marriage Is Murder , Jenny Cain, goodhearted but admirably disciplined director of the Port Frederick, Mass., Civic Foundation, skillfully utilizes intuition and steely nerves to solve two brutal slayings. When MaryDell Paine, wealthy and pompous do-gooder, appeals to the foundation for funds to renovate an old church basement as a recreation hall for former mental patients, it quickly becomes apparent that her altruism is tempered with urgent need. Her brother Kitt, a paranoid schizophrenic, has become a drain on the family's patience and finances. Jenny finds the site to be ideal, and begins to canvass the area, discovering a number of neighbors whose bizarre reactions to the renovation both provoke and intrigue her. When one of the neighbors is found slashed to death in the basement, suspicion falls on Kitt, and when another homeowner is discovered murdered in her living room, the search for Kitt intensifies, bringing Jenny into close cooperation with the able local police. A well-controlled sense of the absurd runs beneath the surface of the narrative, and Pickard is also deft at sharply rendering her characters' strong personalities. The plot eventually widens to include extortion and blackmail, all adeptly ferreted out by Jenny, as independent and imaginative as ever in her fifth mystery. (September)