St. Martin's, Aug 2002, 23.95, 288 pp.
Though her preference would be to stay home in Southern California, literary agent Charlie Greene agrees to accompany her adopted mother attending a funeral in Myrtle, Iowa. Charlie has not met this side of the family that has never accepted adoption as a source of viable kin. Still, Charlie would do almost anything for her mother, biology professor Edwina Greene, including meeting the extended family even in this backwater.
Once there, Charlie realizes she has an opportunity to uncover the identity of her biological mother, but instead ends up at Gentle Oaks Nursing Home. Though elderly, the patients seem more than senile than the average geriatrics. Most of the senior citizens act petrified in mind and body leaving Charlie to wonder why society allows people to live with what appears no dignity, hope or thought. Apparently someone agrees with Charlie because someone begins killing the residents. Encouraged to uncover the truth, Charlie begins to investigate what seem to be euthanasia killings.
The latest Charlie Green mystery, THE RAMPANT REAPER, is a strange eccentric amateur sleuth tale. The story line centers on what to do for the aging especially when the mind goes and the body is not lagging far behind. However, Marlys Millhiser's efforts to use humor to diffuse the seriousness of the topic come across as iniquitous because the cast including the heroine is nasty. Fans who don't mind an ensemble of misanthropes will enjoy Charlie's sleuthing and the insight into a problem that society would prefer die away.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner