Have I mentioned how much I love Mel Anastasiou’s Stella Ryman and the Fairmount Manor Mysteries?
Of course, I may be biased. I was there when Stella was born, in Mel’s beautiful house on Bowen Island, overlooking the water, with the sun flickering through the towering trees around us. In fact, I feel sure the opening sentence that came from Mel’s pen in that Hour Stories session, and which has remained unchanged since, was a product of benevolent Bowen sunshine.
On this particular sun-and-shade April morning at Fairmount Manor, Stella Ryman no more entertained the idea of becoming an amateur sleuth than she had of entering next spring’s Boston Marathon.
(Isn’t that brilliant? I’m sure that a hundred years from now it will be one of those oft-quoted first lines, right alongside “It is a truth universally acknowledged …”)
But Mel’s prose isn’t just elegant and witty … it’s also warm, compassionate, and insightful.
In Stella she has written a character who is brave, intelligent, wise, and stubborn, but who is also trapped. Stuck in a care home, limited by physical frailty, and at the mercy of her slightly less-than-reliable memory, she is nonetheless a warrior, seeking justice for the powerless within the walls of the Fairmount Manor care home. While the context is mundane and the situations treated with gentle humour — the erratic wisdom of Mad Cassandra Browning, the convoluted plot to allow Thelma to take an unsupervised bath, the snarky observations of ‘The Greek Chorus’ of elderly harpies — Mel’s sharp and compassionate writing makes us care about defending the defenceless and righting the wrongs of the nursing home as much as Stella does.
Heroes come in all shapes, sizes, ages, and abilities; and Stella, for all her eighty years and circumscribed life, is a hero that can stand proud in any Hall of Worthies.
If you haven’t yet met Stella, or if you have and want to get to know her better, consider ordering a copy on Pulp Literature‘s Something Novel Kickstarter campaign. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed!