Review

Murder in Mount Holly

by Paul Theroux

"Comfy Room for Peanuts. Large homey room, warm, for single male, hooked rug, big quilt, just perfect for student who wants all the comforts and doesn't mind sharing the 'boy's room.' Kitchen priv., tender loving care. Can't miss. Cheap. Nice. Call after 6. Tel. 65355."

"It’s kind of like watching 'All in the Family' when all of a sudden Edith comes home with a suitcase full of body parts. It can be a stretch. Fans are sure to enjoy both the read and the stretch."

Thus read Miss Ball's advertisement in the Mount Holly Chickadee. She is a sweet woman who teaches kindergarten, fancies herself a starlet (though an aging one) and is having an affair with Juan, the school janitor. It was a similar ad that appealed to Mr. Gibbon and led him to rent one of her rooms, and now it has hooked Herbie Gneiss, even though he didn't know which "boy's room" he would have to share.

Herbie has been forced to drop out of college to care for his mother. She wrote and told him that she needed him because she was dying. Yet when he arrived home, she looked perfectly healthy, though a bit overweight --- possibly from shoveling potato chips dipped in ice cream into her mouth and eating boxes of chocolates with abandon. Herbie remarked, "You said you were dying in the letter." She responds, "Of course I'm dying. What do you expect? You think I'm going to live forever?" He's not too happy about the situation but agrees to get a job and make the best of it.

The fun begins when Herbie is drafted, his mother and Mr. Gibbon fall in love, and the three elderlies decide to fulfill their patriotic duty by robbing the Mount Holly Trust Company, which they are convinced is a Communist Front organization. What further proof do they need? It's clearly run by You-Know-Whos. A comedy of errors follows.

Paul Theroux is a renowned travel and fiction writer who began his career after a stint in the Peace Corps. MURDER IN MOUNT HOLLY was originally published in the UK in 1969 and is now being released in the US for the first time. Perhaps his most well-known novel is THE MOSQUITO COAST, which was made into a full-length movie starring Harrison Ford. Theroux's sense of humor is demonstrated not only in the wacky robbery caper but also in his unique characters.

For example, "Mr. Gibbon was a fuddy-duddy, not a geezer, but he was old, chewed his lips, dressed horribly and so often was taken for a geezer." And he would be severely reprimanded, if not arrested for his politically incorrect epithets when talking about people's ethnicity, race and sexual persuasion. But he is a veteran of three wars and fought for the right to say anything he pleases.

While MURDER IN MOUNT HOLLY is in the "mystery" genre, I would place it more in the comedy/fiction category. Christopher Moore and Tony Robbins come to mind. It’s kind of like watching “All in the Family” when all of a sudden Edith comes home with a suitcase full of body parts. It can be a stretch. Fans are sure to enjoy both the read and the stretch.

Reviewed by Maggie Harding on December 15, 2011

Murder in Mount Holly
by Paul Theroux

  • Publication Date: November 6, 2012
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Mysterious Press
  • ISBN-10: 0802155103
  • ISBN-13: 9780802155108