The Gladstone Bag

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Emma Kelling needs to get out of town--fast! Her housekeeper and her husband are taking a vacation in England and her son and his family must take refuge while their house is repaired. Emma loves her son and his brood dearly, but she values her solitude even more. Thus, she leaps at the opportunity to do an old friend a favor.

Adelaide Sabine needs a hostess to oversee matters at her summer home off the coast of Maine. It seems that Adelaide and her late husband made their home into an artists’ summer commune; since his death, she has continued the practice.

Unfortunately, an illness makes it impossible for her to undertake either the journey or the strenuous attention to detail the enterprise demands. Emma is soon on her way to Pocapuk Island as a substitute hostess for the summer. Once there, however, she quickly learns that it will be anything but a quiet summer on an Atlantic island. Indeed, on the ferry to the island she is drugged and her bag is stolen. The bag is soon returned, but with the addition of what is obviously a valuable, and probably stolen, item of jewelry. Then a mysterious scuba diver appears and just as quickly turns up dead. Moreover, someone is dashing about the island bashing people over the head-- including Emma. It seems only a matter of time before a second murder will occur.

Never one to shirk her duty, or attempt the impossible, Emma informs her niece Sarah that she needs assistance. Unable to make the trip herself, Sarah dispatches the redoubtable Theonia Kelling. Theonia is not unfamiliar with crime or criminals, and she and Emma are a perfect team. Admittedly matters get a bit complicated, particularly the emergence of a long-lost pirate treasure, but Emma and Theonia bring the villains to justice.

THE GLADSTONE BAG is a genteel, often hilarious romp through the lives of the New England aristocracy. Some of the humor has all the subtlety of a cream pie in the face, and some creeps up on the reader hours, if not days, later. Those accustomed to MacLeod’s work will find new reason to settle down in a hammock to renew old acquaintances; newcomers will find an unexpected, but welcome, treasure.