Camilla MacPhee is the odd one out in her perfect family: the only stubby, dark one in a family of willowy and well-behaved blondes (Alexa, Donalda, and Edwina). Her elderly father still looks at her with puzzlement. Camilla’s pretty sure this means he has trouble remembering her name. It’s been the same story all her life.
For most of the series, Camilla runs an advocacy agency for victims of violent crime. If you can call an eight by twelve room, with one window, two desks, a filing cabinet and scarcely enough income to meet expenses, an agency. Justice for Victims is one way Camilla has of dealing with her personal issues over the death of her husband who was killed by a drunk driver. One of the side effects of running such an agency is that she is in contact with people who have found that the law and justice don’t necessarily coincide. Camilla doesn’t suffer fools gladly. She doesn’t follow the rules. Miss Manners would find much of her behaviour in need of improvement. The lawyers, Crown Attorneys, Corrections Canada officials and police officers Camilla deals with would agree with Miss Manners.
As the series motors on, Camilla is looking at what she’ll be doing for the rest of her life. She still has some of her old legal aid clients who show up from time to time to cause trouble or occasionally to help with some shady bit of investigation, as they would say, ‘hypothetically speaking’.
The MacPhees hail from Cape Breton and the family has lived in Ottawa for nearly fifty years. Cape Breton ties remain strong. So that’s not nearly enough time to lose contact with their many friends and relatives from down east and those ties are binding, which is the short answer to why Alvin Ferguson, the world’s most aggravating office assistant, is still in the picture. In addition to plotting possibilities, this link with the East Coast offers the opportunity to have a lot of parties.
Each of the Camilla MacPhee mysteries takes place during one of Ottawa’s many festivals and special events. Speak Ill of the Dead pops up during the Tulip Festival, The Icing on the Corpse puts a chill on Winterlude and Little Boy Blues plays off Bluesfest.
The Devil’s in the Details takes place during the Gatineau Balloon Festival when Camilla learns that she is the next-of-kin to a dead woman she hardly knew.
The Dead Don’t Get Out Much highlights Camilla’s friend and sidekick, Mrs. Violet Parnell and her role in World War II and begins at the annual Remembrance Day ceremonies in the capital. Includes a trip to Italy!
In Law & Disorder Camilla’s partner’s daughters arrive to take part in the Dragon Boat Festival, while sinister lawyer jokes appear seeming to preview death for unwary legal types.
You Light Up My Death, book number seven, explores some potential personal pitfalls of planning to elope while touring the spectacular Cabot Trail. Instead of an Ottawa festival, there is the backdrop of the wonderful Cape Breton musical and cultural series, Celtic Colours. Camilla must deal with her missing fiancé and a cluster of murders as well as oddball Cape Breton relatives and disturbing revelations from her own life. But there’s also a hurricane because these things do happen and never at a convenient time.
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