Murder in the Senior Manor, by Kathryn Braund . . . If you think that life begins at 40, but the fun stops sometime around 80 or so, let me introduce you to the residents of Senior Manor in Great Falls, Montana. In this mystery, Kathryn Braund’s characters are more real, you might say true-to-life, than some writers, whether of mysteries or otherwise, allow their elderly to be.
They aren’t the kind of old folks you see in a nursing home. Nor are they dressed in the latest running shorts and shoes at the starting line for the Boston marathon. These people, be they white-haired and wrinkled, hard of hearing or sight, leaning on canes or walkers, getting around in wheelchairs, all have had a long life, have some of the blemishes of a long life, and have learned life’s primary lesson—keep on keepin’ on because every day you wake up is a good day.
Braund describes the attitude of the people in Senior Manor this way: The residents . . .in the Manor have a lot of resiliency; we seniors all come from the same places—homes we said goodbye to, husbands and wives we lost. . . changes in our health and bodies, loss of money in our pockets. Most elders adjust . . . even though this senior home adventure may well be our last.
The tale is told in the words of 90-year-old Louise Knight, who gets up one morning at 3 a.m. to do her laundry—you can do that when you’re a nonagenarian; everyone expects you to be a little dotty—and instead finds herself in the middle of a mystery, when she discovers another resident lying dead on the laundry room floor. Louise, even though horrified and with failing vision, can see that the woman has been brutally murdered.
Louise, having been the first person on the scene, finds herself a “person of interest” to the local constabulary. Not one to just wait and see what happens next, Louise decides that now is the time to be proactive, to prove her own innocence with the help of as diverse a group of detectives as anyone could assemble. None are under the age of 70 and all believe that, by putting their heads together, they can solve the crime. The oldsters set about to help the police solve this mystery by looking for clues among the rest of the Senior Manor residents, since Louise and friends are convinced that this was truly an inside job.
They gradually narrow down their search to several who could well have done the deed, and whose backgrounds may not be what they have claimed to be. On the way to the mystery’s solution, Louise is put into jeopardy in some of the most harrowing and life-threatening circumstances anyone would imagine. Locked up, in great peril, afraid and in pain, Louise will need all the courage and resiliency that she has acquired over the nine decades of her life.
Throughout the book, Braund blends the mystery with an unusual approach to creating back story for the various characters. Louise is developing a “memorial book” that will tell whatever story about his or her life that each person wants to share with today’s and future residents of Senior Manor. The stories are as varied and eclectic as the individuals themselves, and they provide not only personalities for the characters but some history of the part of Montana where the tale is set.
Louise’s four-footed friends, Sarsaparilla and Clementine, a pair of small Havanese dogs, play a large role in Murder in the Senior Manor. Braund has written a number of books about these and other dogs, and her love for them comes through clearly in this book. On the inside front cover, Braund has a picture of herself with two dogs. Maybe one is Sass and the other Clem. I like to think so.
This is an entertaining book, easy and fun to read, and a pleasant way to gain some insight into what may be ahead for us when we reach our own “golden” years. We should all be as lucky as these intrepid residents of Senior Manor—to have good friends, an optimistic outlook on whatever days are left to us, and the ability to focus on what we can still do rather than what we can no longer do.
With best wishes to Louise, her friends and her dogs, I’ll say goodbye to Senior Manor, and its mystery. I think you’ll enjoy spending a few hours with them all.