REVIEW: The Yellow Brick Road by Elizabeth Cadell
One day Jody was found lying at the foot of a staircase on her way to give a client a beauty treatment. When she recovered and talked of a man with a goat and a yellow-and-black front door, her brother-in-law and Charles, her fiancé, told her she was imagining things. But Jody was unconvinced, and determined to find the man she remembered, leading a small goat.
Well and now for something completely different. I’ve read Cadell books which are mainly humor and ones that have a mystery worked in as it went along but this one is the first book that starts out with a mystery. It not only has a mystery but one that actually already started before the first page and only gets deeper and more tangled as things go along.
Jody Hern is feeling a bit better and not looking quite so peaked after What Happened to Her. The problem for Jody is — what did happen to her? All she remembers is being in London for her day job of giving lux beauty treatments, arriving at the new-to-her apartment of her next appointment, checking the time and then … nothing except for her firm memory of seeing a large, red headed man leading a goat across the street to a charming house with a yellow and black door. She was found, unconscious at the bottom of some stairs with a knot on the back of her head, obviously having fallen down them.
The doctor says to forget her hallucination, her pompous twat of a brother-in-law says to forget her hallucination and her “he’ll do” fiance says to forget her hallucination. The problem is she’s curious because I mean … a goat in the middle of London. It’s her aunt, who detests the brother-in-law too, who finds the first clue which sends Jody searching for and then finding the goat along with a suspicious woman. Jody babbles enough information along with a convoluted explanation to bring the large red head to her aunt’s London house.
Desmond Huntley is a navy man home on leave who scents a mystery. Since he’s bored he decides to help Jody in her hunt to discover What Happened to Her. Yet the more they try and figure out what occurred – and something obviously occurred because as another character points out, if Jody had fallen down some stairs … why did she not have any bruises or broken bones? – the stranger things get and the less things make any sense.
Someone is following and watching Jody, people are lying to her, veiled threats are made, all of which only end up making Jody angry. People could have harmed her already as they know who she is and where she lives so why not, she argues, keep searching for the truth? As she and Desmond keep playing junior detectives and bickering, they unwittingly move closer to actual danger and someone who might be willing to kill to hide the secrets.
I will cheerfully admit that I totally missed the villain in this one and leave it at that so as not to spoil the surprise. Cadell can create convoluted plots and here she outdoes herself. I mentally sized up and then discarded quite a few suspects but in the end, nope, I didn’t guess the truth.
The investigation that Jody and Desmond carry out is not one to make the top 10 list of amateur sleuths. Indeed, initially neither of them wanted to carry it too far and they bungle a lot of things but in the end, it felt more real than having them both suddenly become ace detectives. Some of their actions and reactions did have me wanting to shake them as they sometimes appear to be pig-headed about things and the possible danger they might be in. And yet, this was originally written in 1959 and it kind of makes sense that Jody would be astonished that anyone might actually want to hurt her as she’s never done anything to anyone.
At one point Desmond says –
“Funny, isn’t it?” he mused. “The watchword of half the English nation is: don’t get mixed up in it. I can hear my late mother saying it: ‘Never get yourself needlessly involved, my dear boy. Never risk getting mixed up with anything shady. Give people of That Sort a wide berth.’ ”
But Desmond and Jody do keep plugging away, determined to discover the truth and because of that, they become the quintessential innocents caught up in something bigger than they imagine. It made me think – just a little – of the many Mary Stewart heroines and heroes who never imagine that Anything Like This could happen to them.
There were times I also wanted to shake Jody over her determination to stick with a relationship that obviously was lukewarm at best. Her twat of a brother-in-law did actually do one thing and that was finally get her to open her eyes. Then her hero ices the cake with a lovely speech that leaves little doubt of his feelings.
He put a hand under her chin and raised her face until he looked into her eyes.
“I said I loved you,” he told her slowly. “Do you know what I meant? Do you understand how I feel? Do you know that every moment of the day, I think about you? Do you know that I go to sleep at night with you in my mind, and wake up in the morning remembering you, what you look like, what you sound like? Do you know what I’ve been longing to do?”
I did end up liking this but it was frustrating to me at times. I guess I’m just too steeped in the knowledge that, yes there are people out there who have no hesitation in killing innocents. Jody’s unshakable conviction that no one would hurt her might have worked then but is harder to swallow today. The romance comes after the mystery and there wasn’t nearly as much humor. So go into it expecting more of a straight mystery with a dash of romance. B-