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The Body in the Bookcase

 

Crescent Blues Book ViewsTwo and one half moons iconAvon Twilight (Paperback), ISBN 0-380-73237-8
Katherine Hall Page loosely based the plot of her ninth Faith Fairchild mystery, The Body in the Bookcase, on the burglary of her own home and the crime’s ensuing investigation. As befits a series about a caterer, the author mixed a variety of ingredients in this mystery, maybe too many.

Book: Katherine Hall Page, The Body in the BookcasePage takes one frightened community (Aleford, Mass.), mixes in antiques, burglaries, a catered wedding, a large dose of spoiled bride-to-be, snobby mother-of-the-bride, avocado bisque, two toddlers, assorted best friends and employees, and oh yes, a couple of murders. She stirs the suspense with one outraged preacher's wife who takes turns feeling violated, seeking revenge, catering meals and retrieving her stolen family heirlooms. The author leaves all to simmer as she drops Fairchild family antiques like bread crumbs along the trail that leads to the evil deed-doer. As an added bonus, the author includes recipes from Faith's catering business: Have Faith.

Page’s sleuth, Faith Sibley Fairchild, (who curses in three languages, not including English) searches for answers from local police to the community's series of burglaries and subsequent death of parishioner, Sarah Winslow. When someone invades Faith's own home and steals her family heirlooms, Faith takes over the investigation. Readers gasp for breath as Faith -- super- mom, super-woman, super-chef and super-sleuth -- combines her daily chores with the investigation.

Book: Katherine Hall Page, The Body in the Big AppleWhile husband Tom placidly works on Sunday's sermon, Faith visits pawn shops, antique shops, estate sales and auctions, faces gun-toting shop owners and fights off thugs with a wave of her auction card. Eventually she uncovers a seamy side of the antique trade and a killer.

Despite the well-written plot, the various elements of Faith’s character seem at odds. On one hand, the mild-mannered Faith lives in a parsonage sparsely decorated with cast-offs from previous occupants. She knows parish etiquette because she’s not only a minister's wife, but the daughter and granddaughter of ministers. On the other hand, Faith alludes to a background of wealth, her priceless heirlooms, a honeymoon in Florence and trips to France. She shops at Saks and fills her daughter's playpen with toys from FAO Schwartz. She drinks wine, eats pate and turns her nose up at every restaurant in Aleford. In moments of introspection, Faith reveals more than a hint of class snobbery.

Another oddity: in the family who makes a living bringing religion to the people of the community, I found religion lacking. And the secret of the minister's secretary will make churchgoers shudder.

Yet the minor characters shine. Bright, original dialogue showcases their intriguing personalities. Even the short-lived Sarah Winslow catches your interest and makes you sorry to see her exit so soon. Plus, the writing flows well and the mystery unfolds smoothly. The Body in the Bookcase may not be a gourmet read, but it provides a comfortable meat and potatoes meal.

Dawn Goldsmith 

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