The Resurrection Man

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

THE RESURRECTION MAN is an intriguing addition to Charlotte MacLeod’s popular mystery series set among Boston blue bloods. Once again, the detective work falls to Sarah Kelling, whose family and friends seem to have a propensity for getting themselves murdered, and her art detective husband, Max Bittersohn. This story does not begin with a murder but rather with thefts of art works, all occurring shortly after they have been restored by Bartolo Arbalest, who calls himself “The Resurrection Man” because of his skill in his craft.

Not long after Sarah and Max begin investigating Bartolo and his employees, Sarah’s old friend George Protherie, a man so dull as to be an unlikely target of foul play, is impaled on an antique spear during a burglary in his home. During the gathering in the Protherie home after George’s funeral, still another murder takes place. Only then can Sarah and Max begin to piece together the details of George Protherie’s adventuresome past, solve the art thefts, and identify the murderer.

Like other works in MacLeod’s Boston series, THE RESURRECTION MAN is an American translation of the traditional British murder mystery, which plays upon the contrast between violent death and the traditional society within which it takes place. While MacLeod’s Boston novels, like their British predecessors, are plotted carefully enough to confuse the shrewdest reader, they are also appealing because of their comic tone, derived not only from the well-bred eccentricity of the characters but also from the quality of the murders themselves, which, as in THE RESURRECTION MAN, are so bizarre as to seem less like tragedies than rather surprising breaches of taste.