Buy this book?

Buy this book?

By Dorothy Cannell

Viking, June, 2000 (HC)

Reviewed by Shirley H. Wetzel

Ellie Haskell has just seen her husband Ben, their twins and baby Rose off on a holiday at a "family camp" called Memory Lanes, where they will experience life as it was in a small English village in years gone by. She has plans for her free time, including redecorating Merlin Court, the drafty old pile she inherited from a distant relative, but a letter from an elderly woman she hasn't seen or heard from in thirty years changes those plans.

The woman is one of the "bridesmaids" referred to in the clever title, and she tells Ellie that her grandmother Sophia wishes to contact her. Since Sophia died when Ellie's mother was an infant, this comes as a surprise, but the message intrigues her. When she receives a strange phone call in the middle of the night warning her not to make the trip, she definitely wants to find out what's going on. She acquires an unwelcome traveling companion when her flamboyant housekeeper, Mrs. Malloy, tags along to avoid an impending visit from her long-estranged husband Leonard.

When Ellie has a slight mishap just before reaching the Old Rectory where the three bridesmaids live, she receives a rather violent welcome from the neighbors, but it turns out to be a case of mistaken identity. She is rescued in the nick of time by a woman in flowing clothes and orange and black hair, who, despite her witch-like appearance, may be a guardian angel. Or is she?

Ellie does make her grandmother's acquaintance in a way, and learns much about her own family, but not without some danger. The old ladies, who in fact had been her grandmother's bridesmaids and still had the dresses to prove it, enlist Ellie in a plot to thwart the plan of Sir Clifford Heath to make their beloved village of Knells a part of his Memory Lanes empire. Sir Clifford has secrets of his own, and ties to Ellie's mother as well.

There are many memorable characters, including a foul-mouthed parrot, and several mysteries, crimes and misdemeanors to be sorted out before all is said and done.

Cannell's books are always good entertainment, low on bloodshed and high in fun. This is one of her best.

Other titles reviewed in this series include: THE TROUBLE WITH HARRIET.

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