She Shoots to Conquer an Ellie Haskell mystery by Dorothy Cannell had a fun cover (1) and a promising premise: Ellie Haskell, her husband, and her housekeeper, Mrs. Malloy, lose their way in the fog one night and find themselves at a mansion where Lord Belfrey is hoping to recoup the family fortune by hosting a reality show, a version of The Bachelor where he is the bachelor in question. They arrive just after one of the contestants has died, seemingly in an accident. Meanwhile, the housekeeper, Mrs. Malloy offers to take the dead woman's place in the contest. It sounds quirky enough to be fun, and it had a great opening paragraph. After that, I stalled out quite rapidly.
She Shoots to Conquer is a pseudo-semi-gothic book; a parody-that-isn't, where the meta-fictional mess piles up until neither reader nor narrator is quite sure where she stands. In other words: I bounced off of this. Hard. Ellie loves gothics intensely. She also has a vivid imagination, so vivid she's never really sure she's seeing what something or just imagining it. Once or twice, I could see, but after the third or fourth variation of "Did I really see it, or did I just imagine it? I know my imagination is really vivid," I lost patience with Ellie. The prose is pseudo-gothic, which means intends up layered densely over itself in an unwieldy mass.
I slogged through three chapters, skipped over for a bit, read the last bit, jumped around, and gave up.
I'll stick to the Aunt Dimity books, I think, for those times when I'm in the mood for gothic lite.
(1) Yes, I'm still playing the game of "judging a book by its cover." And, yes, I'm still hunting for a new cozy author to love. More on that anon!