Like most reviewers, I was charmed by the warmth and humor of Heffington's novella, The Windy Side of Care. I was therefore delighted to discover her latest novel, a Shakespearian mystery.
When Vivi set out to nurse her ill uncle, she had no intention of being involved with murder. But when her train brings the death of a young, notorious woman, only Vivi can identify her-- and only Vivi, with the help of her Shakespearian uncle, can see through the pastoral countryside façade to the dark secrets that lurk beneath.
When I read Anon, Sir, Anon, I was hardly the cultured mystery-fan you now see before you. (Well... read before you.) I had read just enough to believe I didn't like it. Although the rapid unveiling at the end enthralled me, I had to endure a few hundred pages of dry, mostly irrelevant details to reach it. Mystery novels also gave me the unsettling sense that I was unbearably dull when I inevitably failed to guess who'd done it.
I couldn't reconcile these two images: Heffington's lively voice and my own gloomy experiences with mystery. So I had to read Anon, Sir, Anon.
The loveliness of it blew me away. Shakespeare, murder, mystery-- but beneath it all, this sense of solid, homey Englishness that tied all the threads together into something delightfully warm, like a sweater. Or a tea cozy.
The characters in particular make Anon, Sir, Anon so wonderful. An eccentric, Shakespearian actor of an uncle; a self-proclaimed jilted lover-- the list goes on. Of all the characters, only one fell flat for me, and she had the great misfortune to be Vivi.
I found her a faint shadow of what I, a modern American, really wanted to read about: a high-spirited, strong-willed English girl. I feel like Heffington tried hard to avoid this archetype in the interest of originality, but it is an archetype that works and is beloved, and the story needed it. Vivi was strong-willed and sensible, but she lacked the feistiness and fun that would've brought this story to five stars.
Anon, Sir, Anon was lovely. It was highly enjoyable. And... it wasn't really a mystery. Sure, there was a body and a missing murderer, but searching for clues led to entertaining character interaction and not much else. The mystery spun itself out into clarity, and Vivi and Farnham didn't have much to do with it.
Just as this was Vivi's first mystery, it was also Ms. Heffington's first mystery novel. And all in all, Anon, Sir, Anon was charming, witty, and delightful. I give it a solid four stars and highly recommend it.