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The Plain Old Man

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Sarah investigates the death of con artist Charlie Daventer on his bathroom floor, when his title role acting replacement, old cousin Fred, insists murder was the cause. Her Aunt Emma's theater troupe is doing The Sorcerer, with Emma as Lady Sangazure. Husband Max away in Finland, Sarah sorts clues herself. Sarah investigates the death of con artist Charlie Daventer on his bathroom floor, when his title role acting replacement, old cousin Fred, insists murder was the cause. Her Aunt Emma's theater troupe is doing The Sorcerer, with Emma as Lady Sangazure. Husband Max away in Finland, Sarah sorts clues herself.


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Sarah investigates the death of con artist Charlie Daventer on his bathroom floor, when his title role acting replacement, old cousin Fred, insists murder was the cause. Her Aunt Emma's theater troupe is doing The Sorcerer, with Emma as Lady Sangazure. Husband Max away in Finland, Sarah sorts clues herself. Sarah investigates the death of con artist Charlie Daventer on his bathroom floor, when his title role acting replacement, old cousin Fred, insists murder was the cause. Her Aunt Emma's theater troupe is doing The Sorcerer, with Emma as Lady Sangazure. Husband Max away in Finland, Sarah sorts clues herself.

30 review for The Plain Old Man

  1. 5 out of 5

    Lynn

    Emma Kelling is putting on her annual play which she really relishes. This will probably be her last production due to her age and her voice is starting to give out. There is a murder and a missing expensive painting. Sarah is staying with her aunt while Max,her husband, is out on an art thief case. The Kellings are a. large, wealthy and eccentric family. I enjoyed Charlotte MacLeod earlier books more that the last several books I have read. They are always humorous and the language rich. Charlot Emma Kelling is putting on her annual play which she really relishes. This will probably be her last production due to her age and her voice is starting to give out. There is a murder and a missing expensive painting. Sarah is staying with her aunt while Max,her husband, is out on an art thief case. The Kellings are a. large, wealthy and eccentric family. I enjoyed Charlotte MacLeod earlier books more that the last several books I have read. They are always humorous and the language rich. Charlotte does not play down to her readers. I was glad for the definition look up on my Kindle. Charlotte MacLeod wrote several series. They would be called cozy mysteries today. However, they are nothing like the cozies being written today. They are original and not formula driven cookie cutters plots. The plotting is tight and a little over 200 pages. She was a very talented author and story teller.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Lyn

    At first I was overwhelmed by the many characters who were at Sarah's Aunt Emma's house to take part in the play. But then I realized it was me not Charlotte MacLeod, I was distracted. I started over and all was well. WHAT A MYSTERY! A huge oil painting of a Kelling ancestress goes missing. For various reasons Aunt Emma doesn't want the police called in. But when one of the cast is found dead in his bathroom, events take a nasty turn. But Sarah and her fellow Kellings are up to the task! Seeing At first I was overwhelmed by the many characters who were at Sarah's Aunt Emma's house to take part in the play. But then I realized it was me not Charlotte MacLeod, I was distracted. I started over and all was well. WHAT A MYSTERY! A huge oil painting of a Kelling ancestress goes missing. For various reasons Aunt Emma doesn't want the police called in. But when one of the cast is found dead in his bathroom, events take a nasty turn. But Sarah and her fellow Kellings are up to the task! Seeing Sarah in hot pursuit literally of the bad guys was thrilling and a hoot at the same time. Only Sarah Kelling Bittersohn would do this craziness! I did miss Max who was away on business in Europe. But this was an excellent who dun it. I love it when I don't figure out the villain till the very end. And it wasn't till the final pages that I twigged it. I enjoy current mysteries but sometimes I get tired of magical cats, recipes and heroines that get themselves into tight spots with a murderer and get beat up or almost killed. Charlotte MacLeod is different. And I love her (posthumously of course.)

  3. 4 out of 5

    Susan in NC

    5/2018 - Still a fun, light-hearted read, even if I could do without all the Gilbert and Sullivan references. Aunt Emma is a delight, if a bit single-mindedly fixated on her amateur theatrics even in the face of a major art theft and a murder, Uncle Frederick is a charmer and Aunt Mabel is a hilarious old bat! 2016 - I enjoyed this light-hearted, clever mystery much more upon re-reading this time, my third (or fourth!), hence I bumped the rating up from 3 stars to 4. It's always interesting to re 5/2018 - Still a fun, light-hearted read, even if I could do without all the Gilbert and Sullivan references. Aunt Emma is a delight, if a bit single-mindedly fixated on her amateur theatrics even in the face of a major art theft and a murder, Uncle Frederick is a charmer and Aunt Mabel is a hilarious old bat! 2016 - I enjoyed this light-hearted, clever mystery much more upon re-reading this time, my third (or fourth!), hence I bumped the rating up from 3 stars to 4. It's always interesting to reread old favorites after several years to see how our feelings change; I've always enjoyed MacLeod's literate, sparkling dialogue and quirky characters, but sometimes tired of her "telling, not showing" style where characters go on and on with their internal monologue and analysis of the mystery and potential suspects and motives. This time I've been enjoying the Kelling and Bittersohn mysteries as much as the very first time I read them, maaaaannny years ago! As an added bonus, we finally meet the dreadful Cousin Mabel Kelling, who turns out to be every bit the nasty old battle ax she was built up to be in previous books. Delightful!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Cindy

    I'm listening to The Plain Old Man by Charlotte MacLeod. I really liked her when I was younger, but now, and especially on audio, I find her writing annoying. I like the plot on this one - Sarah's aunt is putting on an amateur production of Gilbert and Sullivan when a painting is stolen and a cast member murdered - but enough with the interior monologue! Do something already! If it was a written book, I could skip forward, but with it being a tape, I don't know if I'm missing anything important. I'm listening to The Plain Old Man by Charlotte MacLeod. I really liked her when I was younger, but now, and especially on audio, I find her writing annoying. I like the plot on this one - Sarah's aunt is putting on an amateur production of Gilbert and Sullivan when a painting is stolen and a cast member murdered - but enough with the interior monologue! Do something already! If it was a written book, I could skip forward, but with it being a tape, I don't know if I'm missing anything important. All this review of everything that has already happened and speculation on what might happen next - get on with it! I already read that part. Why are you telling me again? Very annoying. Why do authors do that? Do they think we can't remember from one chapter to the next? It's not like the book is that long. Enough grumbling. I don't think I'll get any more audiobooks by her, though. Just not worth it.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    Widowed Emma Kelling is the heart of the little theater group that's presenting Gilbert and Sullivan's operetta "The Sorcerer." Naturally, when she wants an aide, she calls her niece, Sarah Bittersohn, whose husband is in Europe chasing a lost Picasso. When Emma's valuable Romney is stolen, apparently being held for ransom, Sarah's chores are doubled. Emma's old beau, cast in the small part of the Notary, dies mysteriously, and his replacement, Cousin Fred, thinks his old pal was murdered. Max a Widowed Emma Kelling is the heart of the little theater group that's presenting Gilbert and Sullivan's operetta "The Sorcerer." Naturally, when she wants an aide, she calls her niece, Sarah Bittersohn, whose husband is in Europe chasing a lost Picasso. When Emma's valuable Romney is stolen, apparently being held for ransom, Sarah's chores are doubled. Emma's old beau, cast in the small part of the Notary, dies mysteriously, and his replacement, Cousin Fred, thinks his old pal was murdered. Max arrives home just in time to find Sarah and the local police have caught the miscreants.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Teri-K

    I really enjoy this entry into the Sarah and Max series. It's a pity that Max doesn't show up until the end, but Sarah is her usual self - helping out her much loved Aunt Emma as she leads a motley group of friends and relations in performing the Gilbert and Sullivan show, "The Sorceror". I happen to be a casual fan of G&S, though I've not seen this particular play. The book does a good job of cuing the reader in on the plot, so that's not a problem. Slight Spoilers follow- This particular cozy t I really enjoy this entry into the Sarah and Max series. It's a pity that Max doesn't show up until the end, but Sarah is her usual self - helping out her much loved Aunt Emma as she leads a motley group of friends and relations in performing the Gilbert and Sullivan show, "The Sorceror". I happen to be a casual fan of G&S, though I've not seen this particular play. The book does a good job of cuing the reader in on the plot, so that's not a problem. Slight Spoilers follow- This particular cozy takes place almost completely in Emma's house, a grand building full of precious antiques and valuable paintings. So when a huge Romney is stolen a few days before the big performance, Sarah's attention is split between supporting her Aunt, detecting, arranging flowers, and helping costume and make-up the actors. There are plenty of puzzling questions - why the confusing ransom demands, for so little money? How did they get the huge painting out of the house? Why did they choose to steal it instead of a smaller one? A good entry into a series that sometimes is more silly than mysterious, I always enjoy rereading this story. And end up playing some G&S when I'm done. If you like mysteries with well-drawn settings, plenty of suspects, and characters who are mostly likable and amusing, you could do a lot worse than try these. But read at least the first 3 in order.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Judy

    Although this is a Kelling & Bittersohn mystery, it's far and away mostly Sarah Kelling and her crazy relatives (Max is out of town for most of it), which makes it lots of fun. And there's some interesting twists. Another nice old fashioned mystery with eccentric characters and with the added interest of amateur theatrics. Although this is a Kelling & Bittersohn mystery, it's far and away mostly Sarah Kelling and her crazy relatives (Max is out of town for most of it), which makes it lots of fun. And there's some interesting twists. Another nice old fashioned mystery with eccentric characters and with the added interest of amateur theatrics.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Joan

    I did enjoy this one a great deal. I think it was the combination of a good story along with Sarah's backstory, good characterization, and good ethics. Actually, the weakest part was the pro thieves. That almost seemed shoved in to make the mystery a mystery since it is part of a mystery series. However, the dirty old man got his rightful comeuppance; the bratty kids were actually incompetently trying to help their mother, who the dirty old man had been ignoring; and all loose ends were nicely t I did enjoy this one a great deal. I think it was the combination of a good story along with Sarah's backstory, good characterization, and good ethics. Actually, the weakest part was the pro thieves. That almost seemed shoved in to make the mystery a mystery since it is part of a mystery series. However, the dirty old man got his rightful comeuppance; the bratty kids were actually incompetently trying to help their mother, who the dirty old man had been ignoring; and all loose ends were nicely tied up. If I were to keep any of the series, it would be this one. But as long as I'm pitching the rest, I will pitch this as well.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jenny Schwartz

    Delightful. I love Gilbert and Sullivan.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jessi

    I didn't like the last book in the series very much because there was a decided lack of Sarah. This book balanced that with a decided lack of Max. It was an interesting premise but I have to admit, I missed the other person in each book. Though Sarah's family is always a nice mix that keeps the story moving. Overall, this was a fun book that, once you got through the beginning chapters, kept things moving right along. In this book, her cousin Emma is the spearhead of the local community theater. I didn't like the last book in the series very much because there was a decided lack of Sarah. This book balanced that with a decided lack of Max. It was an interesting premise but I have to admit, I missed the other person in each book. Though Sarah's family is always a nice mix that keeps the story moving. Overall, this was a fun book that, once you got through the beginning chapters, kept things moving right along. In this book, her cousin Emma is the spearhead of the local community theater. Sarah has been called down to help out painting the scenes and doing other work. The regular players are all in attendance including the fresh-faced ingenue whose father is an aging roue and whose mother has mostly resigned herself to her lot in life. Then there is the slightly-older-than-the ingenue who is seemingly involved with the roue. There is also a plain old man who has been out with gout but has recently been able to rejoin the group. Too bad he dies in a bathroom fall shortly thereafter. But his childhood friend suspects that it wasn't quite the accident it seems. And since that friend is another of Sarah's relatives, she is pulled in to investigate that case as well as the disappearance of a family portrait worth a lot of money.

  11. 4 out of 5

    moxieBK

    The Plain Old Man (#6) — Charlotte MacLeod (21 chapters) Nov. 19-24, 2020 In the sixth book, Sarah is going it alone as Max is off in Finland tracking another famous painting. Emma Kelling is putting together a operetta but is met with several set back, as first her friend Charlie is a victim of a crime and other actors in the play are injured. Sarah is enlisted to help with the stage and makeup but as the injuries pile up, she is tasked with more. Uncle Fred is enlisted too and before you know i The Plain Old Man (#6) — Charlotte MacLeod (21 chapters) Nov. 19-24, 2020 In the sixth book, Sarah is going it alone as Max is off in Finland tracking another famous painting. Emma Kelling is putting together a operetta but is met with several set back, as first her friend Charlie is a victim of a crime and other actors in the play are injured. Sarah is enlisted to help with the stage and makeup but as the injuries pile up, she is tasked with more. Uncle Fred is enlisted too and before you know it, Fred and Sarah are attempting to solve the mystery. This story was very draggy, I’m sad to say, but it did pick up and become entertaining in the end. The plot was dry, with not a lot of dialog to begin with, but towards the end it perked up. I read this on my Kobo and I am going to guess that they OCR’d this from paperback to ebook form. There were several grammatical errors (mostly word spellings and spaces,) which led me to believe that this is what was going on. Otherwise, an OK read. Three stars. Barely.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kyrie

    One of the cleverer mysteries in this series . Sarah is off helping one of her favorite Kellings put on a Gilbert and Sullivan show, while Max is in Europe. A painting disappears, and Sarah tries to find it and solve the murder of one of the innumerable Kellings, while the show of course must go on. I disagree with some people's determination not to bring in the police right away, but hey, it's fiction, and this series always reminds me of my first full time boss, and her friends. This fulfills One of the cleverer mysteries in this series . Sarah is off helping one of her favorite Kellings put on a Gilbert and Sullivan show, while Max is in Europe. A painting disappears, and Sarah tries to find it and solve the murder of one of the innumerable Kellings, while the show of course must go on. I disagree with some people's determination not to bring in the police right away, but hey, it's fiction, and this series always reminds me of my first full time boss, and her friends. This fulfills the 2018 Popsugar challenge of a book involving a heist. (view spoiler)[The picture is hidden under the dining table. (hide spoiler)]

  13. 5 out of 5

    Robyn

    Early Bird Book Deal | One of the better installments in the series, though I missed Max | Not sure why MacLeod wrote so many series with partner leads, if she found it so difficult to split the narrative between them. It seems she generally focuses each book on one half of the couple, either removing the other entirely or leaving them mostly out of the action. That said, this was a better version of Sarah than the last time she took centerstage, and a much better selection of Kellings. Reasonab Early Bird Book Deal | One of the better installments in the series, though I missed Max | Not sure why MacLeod wrote so many series with partner leads, if she found it so difficult to split the narrative between them. It seems she generally focuses each book on one half of the couple, either removing the other entirely or leaving them mostly out of the action. That said, this was a better version of Sarah than the last time she took centerstage, and a much better selection of Kellings. Reasonable mystery. One of the plot synopses here on GoodReads has an important inaccuracy, describing the victim falsely in a way that changes your expectation of the story.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jan

    The story is interspersed with lines from Gilbert and Sullivan because the play's the core of the plot. Aunt Emma is a grand managing widow known for her generosity and also for producing the operetta populated by Kellings and locals. Then a very valuable painting goes missing right off the dining room wall and a kindly old man gets dead under suspicious circumstances. Sarah has to organize the sleuthing by herself because husband Max is out of the country investigating a different art theft. Al The story is interspersed with lines from Gilbert and Sullivan because the play's the core of the plot. Aunt Emma is a grand managing widow known for her generosity and also for producing the operetta populated by Kellings and locals. Then a very valuable painting goes missing right off the dining room wall and a kindly old man gets dead under suspicious circumstances. Sarah has to organize the sleuthing by herself because husband Max is out of the country investigating a different art theft. Almost all comes out well in the end and a lot of laughs had by the reader. Andi Arndt is the excellent narrator.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Cindyann

    Hardcover FINALLY! This book was only 150 pages but it took me WAY too long to read it. Words like..micturitional, ukade, parure, steatopygia, orison, soubrettes, gudgeon, taboret and meed are partly why. I'm still on the search for an Agatha Christie-like author and Ms MacLeod has been on several lists comparing the two. Copyright says 1985 but it reads like something from the 40's. And because of the archaic language and sentence structure, I kept confusing the setting for England instead of Bo Hardcover FINALLY! This book was only 150 pages but it took me WAY too long to read it. Words like..micturitional, ukade, parure, steatopygia, orison, soubrettes, gudgeon, taboret and meed are partly why. I'm still on the search for an Agatha Christie-like author and Ms MacLeod has been on several lists comparing the two. Copyright says 1985 but it reads like something from the 40's. And because of the archaic language and sentence structure, I kept confusing the setting for England instead of Boston. I want to say this is my 2nd MacLeod book but I'm not sure. One more chance is all I'm willing to grant.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Elisa

    A very charming cozy mystery, my first in this series. I love whodunits, musical theatre and stories about stolen paintings, so this one had all three. One qualm, Max doesn't come in till the very end and has nothing to do with the investigation so I'll need to pick up another book to get to know the second half of the duo. I wasn't really all that invested in figuring out what had happened, because I was really enjoying the story. The ending was a little too coincidental, but I liked it. A very charming cozy mystery, my first in this series. I love whodunits, musical theatre and stories about stolen paintings, so this one had all three. One qualm, Max doesn't come in till the very end and has nothing to do with the investigation so I'll need to pick up another book to get to know the second half of the duo. I wasn't really all that invested in figuring out what had happened, because I was really enjoying the story. The ending was a little too coincidental, but I liked it.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Gabrielle David

    This series is one of my comfort reads. It was written before cell phones and computers took over the world and, — while I would go I to withdrawals if you took my tablet phone, and computer away — I find that soothing.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Gary Allen, PhD

    Boing, boring, I mean incredibly boring. Reading this book is like sitting with a knitting old maid listening to her incessantly drone about her cats. This was an ebook but had it been a print version I would have happily burned it.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Suzanne

    I didn't hate it, but I wouldn't recommend starting with it. Too much exposition. Too many characters to try to keep straight. Also, if you're not a G&S fan, half of the humor goes right over your head. And, again, the murderer was pretty obvious. I didn't hate it, but I wouldn't recommend starting with it. Too much exposition. Too many characters to try to keep straight. Also, if you're not a G&S fan, half of the humor goes right over your head. And, again, the murderer was pretty obvious.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    Excellent series. This one was great fun. I knocked one star off of this one because Max is out of the country, leaving Sarah to solve the mystery herself.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Michele

    This was not one of the better books in the series. The last book was mostly Max, this was mostly Sarah, but they work well together. There were too many characters to keep.straight....

  22. 5 out of 5

    Virginia Kessen

    Gilbert and Sullivan and Kelling clan are a perfect pair. I complained about too little Sarah in the last book but MacLeod made up for it in this book. This one is great fun.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Mare

    Love the time spent with the Kellings and Bittersohns.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Margaret

    In this delightful romp, with the usual assortment of eccentric relatives on view, the plot is wrapped around a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta. Well done as usual.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mizloo

    OK for a covid speed read through the series.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Colley Reviews

    I enjoyed the book immensely.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Nida Guenther

    This should be added to your TBR list.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Cherry

    Charlotte MacLeod is a new favorite of mine and I am looking forward reading more.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Lucia

    This would make an excellent movie.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Arnone

    I eagerly await the next installment.

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