2 out of 4 stars
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Arsenic and Old Men, A Mitch And Al Mystery, written by Glen Ickler, is about three friends whom all work for the same newspaper. They travel to Martha’s Vineyard where Dave must sign papers for the transfer of property from his recently deceased uncle, Walter. Mitch and Al go along as moral support. The initial police report stated a heart attack as the uncle's likely cause of death. It turns into a case of murder when the coroner finds arsenic in the uncle’s stomach. The trio decides, with prompting by their editor, to investigate the uncle’s murder for print in their St. Paul, Minnesota newspaper. Dave’s uncle had been a popular editor for the paper in years past.
In some downtime, the three friends decide to check out a wooded lot included in the inheritance. They are surprised to find Teddy Brewster, an old man, living in a tent pitched in a clearing near the beach. Dave confronts Teddy, telling him he needs to vacate. Teddy claims squatter’s rights, threatens Dave with a lawsuit, then a few minutes later, with a knife. The trio leaves Teddy, once again insisting the man vacate the property immediately. A few days later, they return to find Teddy dead. Autopsy shows he died from arsenic poisoning as well. The quest is on to determine if the two murders are connected; if so, who would have killed the two old men, and why.
Ickler has done a great job with his main characters. The plot is clear, believable, and easy to follow. Arsenic and Old Men has a very good pace, though I found it slow in a couple of spots. The twist that reveals the resolution is fun, but a bit predictable.
However, there are issues with the story. When Detective Gouveia questions Mitch about his whereabouts and actions since he arrived on the island, Ickler subjects the reader to about eleven pages of question and answer that merely recap the story up to that point. I was not fond of the repetition of information. It felt unnecessary and a waste of the reader’s time.
Usually, I like jokes, and I love humor, Ickler disappointed me with a profusion of corny jokes that I found annoying and distracting.
Arsenic and Old Men has pronounced issues in the formatting. For instance, on multiple occasions, a sentence will drop in the middle of the page, followed by lines of blank space. The sentence then picks up as if it is a new paragraph though not starting capitalized. Here is an example from the first part of Chapter 11:
“…whatever they have on
this screwed up island didn’t get Uncle Walt to the funeral home until five…”
Additionally, some paragraphs have a blank line both before and after, others do not. Often in dialog, there is no line or paragraph break to designate when one person quits speaking, and the next begins, creating confusion for the reader.
Add all the above to the splitting of the first letter from the first word of each chapter, and we have a mess. The story is readable but hard to follow. On the other hand, editing in the sense of grammar, spelling, and punctuation is excellent.
Despite the issues, I liked the story. If not for the formatting issues and the corny jokes, I would have ranked it higher. As is, I rate this story 2 out of 4. I would recommend this story to those who don’t mind or might even enjoy corny jokes, or to those who like a good mystery.
Arsenic and Old Men
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