Anyone who has ever served as a caregiver to an older parent or grandparent will instantly relate to Freddy Bell in Caroline B. Cooney‘s new mystery, The Grandmother Plot. As her closest living relative, Freddy has taken responsibility for his grandmother Cordelia Chase, who is slowly becoming more and more affected by dementia.
While Cordelia resides in Middletown Memory Care (or MMC, “an institution that cared for people who once had memories and would never find them again”), where she is warm, safe, fed, bathed and medicated, Freddy feels compelled to visit her frequently. Freddy suffers from what he deems “nonvisitation guilt,” which he compares to malaria: “You had a bout of suffering and then you improved and forgot you ever had it, and then you had another bout.”
As if Freddy needs the additional pressure. A glass blower by trade, he’s up to his neck in commitments to supply glass pipes for the clientele of the Leper, a local drug kingpin. Already trying to stay one step ahead of the Leper’s enforcers, who are out to collect the money he owes, Freddy’s life is further complicated when a fellow resident of MMC appears to have been deliberately suffocated, potentially putting his grandmother in danger.
With its amateur sleuth and realistic conflicts, the personable Grandmother Plot falls somewhere between a cozy and a domestic thriller. Besides Freddy, who is compelling enough on his own, Cooney populates this mystery with a cast of quirky characters (including a young woman with an obsession for pianos) who offer much-needed levity to the plot.
The author of the popular YA thriller The Face on the Milk Carton, Cooney has a knack for creating memorable characters that immediately resonate with readers. She sensitively depicts Cordelia’s horror at losing everything she ever knew, as well as Freddy’s journey to finding the courage and compassion to care for and forge new memories with his grandmother. As such, The Grandmother Plot is more than a simple crime caper; it is one with a whole lot of heart.