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Beware the Company You Keep by Jenny Jensen

April 19, 2020 by in category On writing . . . by Jenny Jensen

Beware the company you keep.

Hunkered down, social distancing, getting that restless cabin fever thing. Having made myself nuts listening to 24/7 Corvid19 updates I’ve weaned that to 5 minutes a day. That leaves a lot of free time. I tried cooking. The eggplant parma that came out of my oven looked nothing like the one onscreen at Food & Wine. I won’t comment on the pea soup, though I may try to sell it to a prop house. Enough wasting precious food stuff; back to what I know best.

Books are my ‘go to’ and like millions of us, I’m bingeing. That’s not anything new, of course, but this time I’m really binging—like eat, drink, sleep, dream, 24/7 bingeing.

I decided the Cozy offered what I need most—to be surrounded by friends— friends with far more exciting lives than mine. Cozies are character driven, filled with smart/plucky/idiosyncratic/befuddled/unique MCs. There’s always a supporting cast of peculiar vicars/spinsters/widows/jolly butchers; a bucolic village or a quaint boutique of some sort (I always over-eat when the MC owns a bakery) and an historical local feature—castle, manor, deserted distillery etc. Oh yes, and a dead guy or two. All stuff a socially distanced gal can sink her teeth into.

I started with Agatha Raisin (M.C. Beaton). I love this character—egotistical, insecure, smart, intrepid etc. Agatha gets bored easily and by book 7 a nasty suspicion began to nag me. Was she orchestrating all this mayhem? We know her PR skills, her lust for the limelight, her mastery of manipulation. Could it be that beneath her plucky facade lies a serial killer? What better way to keep one’s fame flame burning than solving the statistically improbable number of Cotswold murders? Do I really want to hang with her?

I turned to Miss Marple (Agatha Christie, of course!). She’s a chameleon. She blends to invisibility in any setting just by sitting demurely with her her knitting. She sees and hears everything and remembers it all. Murder plagues even her slightest acquaintance and she perches like a spider ‘til the culprit shakes her web and he is revealed. Even with six degrees of separation, I don’t want to know her. I could be the unfortunate victim of her butcher’s wife’s cousin-in-law. It’s too bad because the village of St. Mary Mead sounds so lovely—until I recall Miss Marple’s own words, “There is a great deal of wickedness in village life.” Time to move on.

Flavia deLuce (Alan Bradley). Just the ticket! Flavia is a prodigy, a wit, a poverty stricken blueblood and she’s 11 years old. She welds a grand vocabulary, intimidates adults, and has a Phd in cheekiness. Flavia’s hobby is chemistry and really, science in general, and she uses her hobby to solve the who dunnit of every body she stumbles on in “Bishop’s Lacey, a notable hotbed of crime.” See! I’m completely reassured. Flavia is the perfect company to keep. She does nothing to attract all that homicide; that’s just a Bishop’s Lacey issue. Besides, she named her bike Gladys. I’m sticking with her.

I hope all of you have found your binge worthy material. Read on and stay well.


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