(22. – 952.) The B-Team by Melodie Campbell – While in Toronto during the winter I picked up this novella at the Sleuth of Baker Street Store where there was an author event that included Ms. Campbell. I wish I had read the book sooner. It is an entertaining fun read.
It is a long time since I read a novella. Decades ago I often read the novellas or extended short stories featuring Nero Wolfe. It was nice to read again a book in less than an evening. I have come to think of current crime fiction as short fiction if a book is less than 300 pages.
Kitty, the white haired elder and retired burglar from a Hamilton based Italian family whose primary business is crime, puts together the B-Team. Inspired by the A-Team television series of the 1960’s Kitty announces her concept to her puzzled niece, Del:
“Nope. Vigilante group. I talked to your mom. We need one, with all the senior scams these days.” She leaned back in the chair and looked off into the distance with a spooky smile. “I’m thinking of calling it …. The B-Team. And Del, we want you to run it.”
Mom, Stella, is no suburban soccer mommy:
Stella Scarlottis was born on a cold day in January 1952. The men in the family said that ice had formed in her heart the say she was born. I knew different.
It wasn’t ice. It was steel. This is an industrial city, after all. And so, from the very beginning, Stellas has taken no crap. Not from anyone.
Strong women dominate the B-Team. The only male involved is Del’s brother, Dino.
A few months into the venture Del discusses the team:
Our mission is to help the underdog. That is, people who have been on the losing side of a bad deal and will likely suffer greatly because of it. Our most recent cases involved restoring someone’s good name, and preventing a blackmailer from preying on the helpless. Both noble endeavors.
The B-Team will be good vigilantes. In the tradition of Travis McGee they will be the last resort for the defrauded who have no means of legal recovery.
In the spirit of an earlier generation they will commit capers.
The subtitle explains their current caper and recalls an earlier era of subtitles:
The case of the Angry First Wife.
Kitty calls the team together to recover a diamond necklace. A wealthy man has taken a second trophy wife. The first wife was unable in the divorce to obtain a beautiful necklace she had inherited from her grandmother. The B-Team is dispatched to recover the necklace.
In the tradition of Canadian crime fiction complications ensue but not a trail of bodies.
The strength of the book is in the characters. The members of the B-Team are engaging and memorable. I think they could form an estimable team for a new T.V. series. As I read the book I saw Kitty as a Betty White character.
I hope there will be further books featuring the B-Team. I would like to read more of their capers.