Monday, April 09, 2007

But Nellie Was So Nice - Mary McMullen

First published 1979; cover shown is the 1982 Keyhole Crime (UK) paperback edition.

Middle-aged New Yorker Nellie Hand is everyone's friend. She visits the sick, takes in the homeless and provides a dependable, listening ear. Nellie enjoys her life, working at an exclusive fashion boutique by day. But when Matthew Jones, close friend and UBC executive, confides that he once murdered a business rival, Nellie realises that she is the keeper of a myriad of dangerous secrets.

Several days later Nellie's nephew Jeremy returns from a photo shoot in Scotland to discover that his aunt has been murdered. With the police convinced it was a simple robbery that turned violent, Jeremy decides to start his own investigations. He takes up residence in his aunt's apartment and places an ad, "Nellie Lives", in The Times.

Soon he has visitors: the executive who confided his dangerous secret to Nellie, an albino ex-con searching for the $30,000 his girlfriend stole when he went to jail, the antiques dealer from downstairs who seems to have a stolen Van Gogh in his bedroom, Nellie's employer at the boutique, and Ursula, the fashion illustrator who lived in the apartment below Nellie.

It will take an attempted rape, a flooded building, a long-awaited inheritance, a murder attempt, a suicide and the chance sighting of a television set in a rubbish bin before Nellie's killer is unmasked.

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