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Retro Reading: Fundraising the Dead by Sheila Connolly

Updated on May 13, 2022
Donate and die
Donate and die

Money, Mayhem and Murder in a Museum?

My first thought: a museum and fundraising through grants probably not a good idea for a mystery but you know the old saying about judging a book by its cover.

And I'm sorry I did judge it by the cover because Fundraising The Dead by Sheila Connolly is one of those rare mysteries which actually works.

This is the first entry of the Museum Mysteries and it starts off with a bang as Eleanor "Nell" Pratt is in the final hours of preparing for a huge fundraising event at the museum she works for, The Pennsylvania Antiquarian Society (the Society) in Philadelphia. As a fundraiser she's busy with the last minute details until her co-worker, Arthur Findley, comes to her with some disturbing news.

Some of the rare artifacts have disappeared and when board member Martha "Marty" Terwillinger needs these family heirlooms she gives an ultimatum that they be found within a week.

After the gala, Nell goes to her bosses' house (who she's having a romance with) and after she leaves for work the next morning she discovers Arthur dead. The night before she vaguely saw him at the party knowing that he was only there because he was busy working on his filing system and trying to figure out where the missing artifacts could have been placed.

Nell meets with his boss, Latoya Anderson, who's the VP of collections and she admits the filing system wasn't the best but Arthur was working on it. She comes across as not really being to concerned with the missing items since she was always given a report by Arthur. Latoya does become concerned when the president of the Society and the FBI get involved.

Even though this is a mystery I like to think of it more as a workplace drama since Nell and all of the characters are everyday working people and most of the story is set at the workplace. It was refreshing to see an amateur detective in a different environment for a change rather than scoping out people in dark alleys.

But, Connolly also keeps you guessing as to what's going on.

Since Nell is having a discreet relationship with the Society's president (Charles Worthington) he casually breaks it off for fear of everything getting picked up by the media. The police have ruled out Arthur's death as an accident but as Nell digs deeper she comes to the conclusion it was murder.

As I read through the book, I was often reminded of the movie 9 to 5 since Nell becomes friends with Marty and eventually Marty introduces her to Elizabeth "Libby" Farnsworth, one of Philadelphia's wealthiest women. Then there's Doris (Charles' pit bull assistant) who knows every move within the office.

I only set up the above scenario since Nell really hasn't had the chance to officially "breakup" with Charles and she knows he's somewhat of a lothario by dating well to do women, so the three of them come up with a scheme aided by Marty's nephew.

Fundraising The Dead is a fast paced novel which really is a fun one to boot. I could easily see this as a movie based on the three women, their plot and the no nonsense female detective (which also puts a twist on the mystery since she doesn't really care about another body).

If you're looking for something fun to read I'd highly recommend this.


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