From the publisher—
Minster’s wife, caterer, and part-time sleuth Faith Fairchild pairs up with Sophie Maxwell, last seen in Body in the Birches and now a newlywed living in historic Savannah, Georgia, where Sophie crosses paths with murder.
Attorney Sophie Maxwell has come to Savannah to be with her new husband, Will. But nothing throws cold water on a hot relationship faster than a dead body. Worse for Sophie, no one believes the body she knows she saw is real, Will is spending an awful lot of time in Atlanta on a case he claims is urgent, and she’s been tasked with house hunting for them with his former sweetheart, who Sophie can’t help but suspect wishes Sophie would return to her Yankee roots!
Fortunately, Sophie has a good friend in Faith Fairchild. With teenage Amy being bullied by mean girls and husband Tom contemplating a major life change that will affect all the Fairchilds, Faith is eager for distraction in the form of some sleuthing. In between discussions of newlywed agita, surprising Savannah customs and, of course, fabulous low country food, Faith and Sophie will pair up to unmask a killer!
In a departure from other books in the series, Faith Fairchild was not the primary protagonist in the most recent book, The Body in the Birches nor is she in The Body in the Wardrobe; rather, the storyline follows Faith’s friend, Sophie Maxwell, as she marries and moves to her new husband’s home in Savannah. It’s Sophie who’s confronted with disappearing bodies, family secrets, a hostile stepsister-in-law and a new husband who seems to be a bit too close to an old girlfriend, all while learning to live in and love a city radically different from her native Long Island. While all that’s going on, Faith is dealing with family issues including her husband, Tom’s, interest in possibly leaving Aleford for a new parish and her teen daughter, Amy’s, unhappiness in a new school. Her connection to all that’s going on in Savannah is limited to phone calls with Sophie until the last pages.
Savannah, a city I’ve visited several times, is itself a character with all its history, architecture, ghosts and unique culture. Ms. Page brings this quintessential Southern town to vivid life and makes me want to go back as soon as I can.
Truthfully, there are multiple threads in the story, some of which turn out to be mysteries while others are focused on family and town issues in both Savannah and Aleford. Sophie’s husband, Will, is a private investigator working on a case in Atlanta so he’s in and out as Sophie navigates her adopted town and family but he still manages to make enormous mistakes with his new wife and is remarkably uncommunicative. It’s a good thing he’s usually quite likeable but I still had moments of thinking Sophie should make a run for it. She sticks it out, though, even when no one believes she saw a dead man tumble out of her wardrobe and she excuses a lot of Will’s shortcomings. . .until he vanishes and that’s when Faith comes to the rescue.
In a few short hours, the women solve the immediate problem which leads to a denouement that’s little short of implausible and pretty much totally unexpected. In short, this is not the greatest crime story but Ms. Page’s series is so charming overall that a lot can be forgiven and I’ll think of this as a pleasant entry featuring a young woman I’ve come to like very much. I’m looking forward to seeing whether future books will concentrate on Faith again or periodically focus on Sophie.
Note: one thing plucked my last nerve more than once. The word “y’all” is the subject of an ongoing argument as to whether it’s always intended to be second person plural or can sometimes be addressed to a single person, the latter usage being almost entirely in areas not part of the South. I’ve been a Southerner all my life and cannot imagine a native of Savannah addressing one person with this word as happens several times in this story.
Second Note: the foods described are so mouthwatering they can make you feel weak with hunger.
Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2016.
About the Author
Katherine Hall Page is the author of twenty-two previous Faith Fairchild mysteries, the first of which received the Agatha Award for best first mystery. The Body in the Snowdrift was honored with the Agatha Award for best novel of 2006. Page also won an Agatha for her short story “The Would-Be Widower.” The recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award at Malice Domestic, she has been nominated for the Edgar Award, the Mary Higgins Clark Award, and the Macavity Award. She lives in Lincoln, Massachusetts, and Deer Isle, Maine, with her husband.
Catch Up with Katherine Hall Page –
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Returning guest blogger Sunny Frazier, whose first novel in the Christy Bristol Astrology Mysteries, Fools Rush In, received the Best Novel Award from Public Safety Writers Association, is here today with her thoughts on the comfort of putting on one’s face.
The third Christy Bristol Astrology Mystery, A Snitch in Time, is in bookstores now.
Last month I wrote about giving up multi-tasking. Today, I’m sitting outside getting some sun, topping off the pool (despite the threat of rising water rates), drinking oolong tea and writing today’s column. So much for good intentions.
The topic for today is cosmetics. I’m a fan. I must be as I have quite a collection. I even cleaned out my medicine cabinet so I could fill the shelves with lipsticks, foundations, eye shadows, face creams and fingernail polish. Sometimes I just open it up to gloat over my treasures. Walgreen’s and Revlon are making a fortune off of me.
But, there have to be limits. The other day I was standing in line at Subway to order a meatball sandwich on Italian bread when I happened to glance at two customers down the line. I bent toward the short woman my age standing next to me and soto-voiced said, “What’s with all these fake eyelashes?”
We both covertly looked at the young women. Their racks of lashes reached out, obscenely thick, obviously fake, distractingly ugly. My new friend and I smirked at each other and rolled our eyes in tandem.
I’m not sure when this trend took hold and spread so widely. Is it the Kardashian effect, the result of HD TV or just this season’s focus? Some years it’s the smoky eye, some years neon lipstick. Right now beauty is defined by lashes that crawl on the face like spiders. Spider lashes.
You have to be young to get away with trends. A young face is a blank canvas. It hasn’t achieved character lines yet so young women experiment with manufactured color. When I was 18, “Toast” was my favorite shade of lipstick. It gave a shimmery, if anemic, look. I remember doing white eyeliner when it came over from London. I even used a brow pencil to dot fake freckles on the bridge of my nose to look cute. I never could do mascara; my lashes are long and the stuff just smudged my glasses.
My mother loved makeup and refused to be seen without it. She put on her face first thing in the morning and wore it all day, even if she never left the house. She had porcelain skin but smoking took its toll. It was her firm belief that her pancake makeup should be 3 shades darker than normal and chided me for choosing “ivory,” which is my natural tone. She also loved blue eyeshadow even after it went out of fashion. Red lipstick, always bright red.
One thing from her era I’ve never understood is drawn-on eyebrows. I’ve never even plucked mine since they are always hidden under a fringe of bangs. I think they are reasonably pretty, as far as facial hair goes. I find myself checking out the brows of other women, fascinated with the pains they go to making weird crayon lines over their eyes. At first I thought just women of the previous generation were victim to this unfortunate trend, but I’m seeing more young women following suit. It looks silly.
Makeup has been around as long as civilization. Cleopatra was no slouch in that department. Marie Antoinette took it to new heights with fake beauty marks and hair up to here. Elizabeth I slathered on white lead makeup, which ate away skin. It hurts to be beautiful.
No matter what the promises from the manufacturers, no makeup is going to erase the fine lines, the demarcation of a life well-lived and a face well-lived in. I still use makeup but strive to make it look like I don’t. I go for a “natural” look. The foundation barely covers but has an spf 15, lipstick is a light rose called Sugar Plum, blush is a pink cream and the lightest violet on the eyelids. I want people to see me, or a better version of me–not a mask.
Casey’s Last Chance
Joseph B. Atkins
Mojo Triangle Books, February 2015
This is one powerful exploration of corruption, random violence and murder in the deep south. In the southern United States during the second half of the Twentieth Century, a wealth of divergent forces warred over various resources using every known technique to corrupt law enforcement and keep poor and minority residents in their places. Industrialists and manufacturers fought against union organizers, the KKK raised flaming crosses against African-Americans and immigrant Latinos, and Martin Luther King led a burgeoning civil rights movement into rampant but peaceful civil protest.
Some of this unrest looms on the horizon in July, 1960, when the novel opens. Casey Eubanks, hustler and poolshark is running from arrest out of Jonesboro, South Carolina for the accidental shooting of his cousin in a local bar. He takes bad advice from an acquaintance and fellow hustler and agrees to a murder contract. He’s supposed to erase a union organizer who is agitating for better pay and better living conditions in a mill in southern Mississippi. When the plan goes awry Eubanks instead murders a local corrupt cop and we’re off on a classic dark run.
The author nails the descriptive elements of the territory Casey travels through and he nails the increasingly dark psychology that drives Eubanks through sleeepless nights in dingy motels and brushes with the law on light-less nighttime deserted roadways. Readers will meet a host of characters all nicely detailed. The mood is somber throughout, even when Casey hooks up with a rogue FBI agent and a free—lance reporter trying to bring down a sprawling ex-Nazi cabal of the worst kind of criminal.
The dialogue is crisp and relevant, the mean streets are the meanest and the pace of the story is compelling. The author not only nails the physical elements of the south, his characterizations are among the most accurate for this kind of novel I have read in a while. Bravo for a gritty, dark and thoughtful novel.
For more than twenty years, Radine Trees Nehring’s magazine features, essays, newspaper articles, and radio broadcasts have shared colorful stories about the people, places, events, and natural world near her Arkansas home.
In 2002, Radine’s first mystery novel, A VALLEY TO DIE FOR, was published and, in 2003 became a Macavity Award Nominee. Since that time she has continued to earn writing awards as she enthralls her original fans and attracts new ones with her signature blend of down-home Arkansas sightseeing and cozy amateur sleuthing by active retirees Henry King and Carrie McCrite King.
Website URL: www.RadinesBooks.com
Blog URL: http://radine.wordpress.com
Facebook URL: www.facebook.com/RadineTreesNehring
Though hardly an equivalent of soldiering, construction work, or high wire walking, a writing career is not for the faint of heart. We may not be tested physically, but stress and loss of sleep are not uncommon dangers. Self-doubt and frustration are also scary possibilities. Why does this happen when many non-writing humans, whether readers or not, still look at anyone claiming to be a writer with a degree of awe?
One truth we can’t avoid tells why. In few careers does success so totally depend on one person–one thinking mind. Even a leader, director, or president has supporting advisers to share any results of thinking and planning.
But the writer? Yes, we might blame the demands of our “other” job, current trends, editors, agents, publishers, book sellers, even the reading public for a lack of enthusiastic reception. No matter. We are smart people. We know, in spite of all our blaming, that the problem slides past everything else and lands, plop, right in our laps.
Then why do so many of us search out advice to writers, go to writers’ conferences, and then continue to write and submit? How can we keep hoping that somehow, some time, the words we write will reach a receptive audience and, glory be, our efforts will find validation?
I have decided it’s because of gratitude, recognized or not. If we are cultivating gratitude, that’s a huge boost to our thoughts about ourselves as authors. It cheers us, and spurs us on toward publication.
What are we grateful for? Ummm., how about sentences? Annie Dillard, who certainly knows what she is talking about, asked a potential author, “Do you like sentences?”
The poor young person was amazed and, I suspect, stumped.
But you and I know about liking sentences. Sometimes, when I go back a few pages to edit I think, “Wow, that’s a wonderful sentence, so expressive. Did I really write that?” How about you? Oh, yes, you know!
Be grateful for sentences.
If you write non-fiction, do you believe in what you are sharing? Do you, perhaps, think it might help someone else? What a good thing to be grateful for.
Fiction? How about your characters? Do you like most of them? Do you see them as the right people in the right place at the right time? Are you eager to share them, their adventures, struggles and discoveries, with others? I enjoy spending time with my book people, and I think most other fiction authors do as well. Huge reason for gratitude. We aren’t asked to spend time with people who mean little to us. We like the people we have given birth to.
How about recognition? It comes. Be grateful for every tiniest bit. “Oh my, I wish I could write.” “What do you write?” “Where do you get your ideas?” “Is your work for sale?”
I will never become wealthy as a writer. Very few of us do, but other compensations balance that. I often wear shirts with one of my book covers printed on the front. A couple of weeks ago I was walking through a restaurant and a women reached her hand out to me. “Are you Radine?” she asked, pointing to my shirt. When I acknowledged my name she said, “My husband and I love all your books. Is there going to be another one soon?”
Better than money in the bank? You betcha, and a huge cause for a burst of gratitude.
A Black Cat Bookshop Mystery #5
Berkley Prime Crime, November 2015
Mass Market Paperback
Even though he’s willful and contrary and seems convinced that he, not Darla Pettistone, owns Pettistone’s Rare Books, cat Hamlet is a treasured member of the bookshop gang, along with retired Professor and rare book expert James T. James and goth Robert, barista in Darla’s new coffee bar. It’s July, and Darla and her Brooklyn business neighbors are hosting a Fourth of July block party with music and dancers and Martial Arts demonstrations and booths. Almost everyone is enthusiastic. Only George, who is convinced that Darla opened her coffee bar to drive his coffee-shop out of business, is dragging his feet. As the heat and the problems build up, Darla works to keep the party going. Then Hamlet finds a body in George’s shop.
There are plenty of suspects and lots of interesting incidents. I enjoyed the camaraderie between Darla and her friends, and followed her sleuthing with enthusiasm. And Hamlet was his infuriating, adorable self. Long may his plumy tail wave.
Reviewed by Marilyn Nulman, December 2015.