Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Fundraising the Dead by Sheila Connolly

source: gift
Fundraising the Dead by Sheila Connolly
series: Museum Mystery (1)

I received Fundraising the Dead for my birthday this year (see post). It's a cozy mystery (the first in a new series) set in a museum (the Historical Society of Pennsylvania1 under the guise of the "Pennsylvania Antiquarian Society"). The amateur detective for the series is the museum's director of development, though in Fundraising the Dead (and maybe future installments) she has help in the form of a long-armed board member.

I enjoy cozy mysteries and I particularly liked this one because of its setting. The historical society-type museum is very familiar to me. I also appreciated that while there was a murder, the more significant crime was insider theft, which is a very real problem for museums, especially those with paper and portable collections.

While reading Fundraising the Dead I found myself imaging some of the characters as their real-life counterparts in my museum. I had our former donor relations manager cast as the lead though because I think she'd make a better sleuth than our director of development.2  I also noticed at one point that my irritation with one of the book's characters was being transferred to their real-life counterpart3 so I had to make sure to divorce fiction from reality before I went to work the next day.

The more typical danger with being too familiar with a setting is that one can get distracted by errors made by the author4 to the point of not being able to appreciate the book for what it is. As evidenced by that last footnote, I did experience a bit of that, but it didn't keep me from enjoying Fundraising the Dead.  It looks like Connolly has already published three more installments in the series (Let's Play Dead, Fire Engine Dead, and Monument to the Dead) and I plan to read them all.

There's one item, I must address, though, before ending this post. The back cover promised a dead archivist6 - false advertising! When reading the novel it soon becomes apparent that the person who drafted the back cover text didn't have a good grasp on the distinction between different roles within the museum because it isn't the archivist who is killed... it's the registrar. This amused me to no end because the person who gave me Fundraising the Dead is our museum's collection manager... who serves as our registrar.  And who will be borrowing this book from me shortly.   For what it's worth, there's no archivist mentioned in the narrative.
  1. While reading the novel I incorrectly assumed it was set at the Philadelphia Athenaeum, but I did a bit of my own sleuthing before writing this post.
  2. Though, just to be clear, I don't imagine her as type to conduct a secret affair with a superior, even if both of them were single.
  3. Who may or may not have deserved my ire, but definitely not for what the character was getting up to.
  4. For example, in no museum of 40+ employees would the director of development ever be involved in estimating the scope of a collection, let alone in the damp, cluttered basement.
  5. When a collection of George Washington's letters is lost on the day of the Society's grand gala, heads will certainly roll... but no one expects an archivist to be found dead."

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