If one understands the critical acclaim of the hit TV series, Monk, it is easy to understand the appeal of a series featuring Miss Wilhelmina âHelmaâ Zukas. After all, if Monk were a fussy female librarian living in the Pacific Northwest, he would BE Miss Zukas! The two of them have quite a bit in common, not the least of which is their OCD-like behavior, their keen ability to observe, and their uncanny ability to solve murders.
Just as Sharona was as different a character from Monk as the writers of the show could imagine (Natalie - not so much), Ruth Winthrop, Helma's sidekick and long-time best friend, provides balance as Helma's polar opposite. While Helma would be described more adequately as prim and proper and more than a tad bit uptight, Ruth is full of life - dramatic and impulsive - often getting Helma into situations she never would have found herself in otherwise. As individuals, they are each a bit too extreme, but together, they work. Their characters complement one another very well and their differences provide plenty of comic relief.
In this particular outing, Helma tries to help Ruth mend a broken heart and suggests she keep busy. Ruth takes to her studio and pours her past hurts onto several canvases - only to have some of her efforts stolen and vandalized. When they realize that the two missing paintings depict men who died under mysterious circumstances, both women decide to investigate - Helma, using the library's many resources, and Ruth, using, well, less conventional methods.
If you've been waiting, finally, for Miss Zukas to let down her hair, I'm afraid this installment might leave you wanting. If, however, you are like me and enjoy Helma just the way she is, idiosyncrasies and all, you will thoroughly enjoy this latest romp. Police Chief Wayne Gallant figures prominently, as do several other series âregulars.â Let's hope we won't have long to wait before their next adventures!
Carol Ann H. 5/13/2008
Always fun visiting with Helma, Ruth and the rest of the gang in Bellehaven. However, I wasn't all that keen on the plot, pretty much losing interest in the book before I finished it.