Book Review of The Body in the Birches by Katherine Hall Page

Don’t know how I could have failed to discover the long-established Faith Fairchild Mysteries, lover of New England-based stories that I am. The Body in the Birches by Katherine Hall Page made me long to visit Vacationland again.

A vacation property is about to be passed to the next generation, and family members have gathered to discover which branch of the family tree will inherit.

A festive Fourth-of-July celebration is followed by the finding of the body of a woman who works for the featured family as a housekeeper/cook. The death seems to have been naturally caused.

Main character, Sophie, a member of the family, who recently quit a lucrative London job and split with her fiance, takes over the domestic responsibilities. Soon another body is discovered, his young daughter disappears.

Faith Fairchild, a caterer serving area family, begins to keep her eye open for clues. It seemed to me Sophie, and her budding romance with an unlikely character – not to mention the unexpected appearance of her ex – was the center of the story, rather than the series’ namesake character. But that was ok.

A hurricane and the climax of the murder mystery, which nearly ends in another murder, coincide near the close of the story.

I enjoyed the book and plan to check out more of the many in this downeast series I can’t believe I’d not previously discovered, set near Blue Hill Maine, a town I’ve visited, though not for years.

Featured Quotes of Authors and Books

“October knew, of course, that the action of turning a page, of ending a chapter or shutting a book, did not end the tale.
Having admitted that, he would also avow that happy endings were never difficult to find: “It is simply a matter,” he explained to April, “of finding a sunny place in a garden, where the light is golden and the grass is soft; somewhere to rest, to stop reading, and to be content.”
― Neil Gaiman, Season of Mists

Book Review of Thrill of the Hunt by Rita Mae Brown

The modern and Early American technologies mingle in Thrill of the Hunt, this version of Rita Mae Brown’s foxhunting-centered cozy mystery series.

A blackmailer targets several of Sister Jane, Master of Foxhounds for Jefferson Hunt Club’s friends, and eventually the hunt club itself. The dropped cash was picked up via two creative methods that made the person committing the crime difficult to discern.

A suicide versus murder question is raised following the death of one of the blackmailed and later the apparent attempt by his spouse to take her own life.

The plot takes place against the backdrop of summer melding into autumn across the Virginia countryside, the launch of foxhunting season. A narrative is included of the authentic restoration of Old Paradise, a historic estate with a pre-Civil War heritage.

A visit with Rita Mae’s wise characters, both two legged and four-legged has never been more welcome. The horses, hounds, and foxes have become treasured friends over the many years I’ve been a fan of this series.

Book Review of Peach Clobber by Karen MacInerney

It was, appropriately, peach season when I read Peach Clobber, an installment of Karen MacInerney’s Dewberry Farm cozy mystery series. These tales are cute despite the murders that mar the peace of this rural Buttercup Texas setting.

Karen’s Gray Whale Inn mysteries set in Maine are my favorites, but these light reads are great too. In this one, two sisters struggle to save a historic peach orchard in spite of the many unexplained mishaps, including what main character/mini-farm owner/amateur sleuth, Lucy Resnick and others believe was likely a murder on the premises.

Are other lives in danger also? The sisters are actually polar opposites when it comes to the goal of saving the fruit farm from financial ruin. Could that make one of them a murderer? Or are there additional suspects in the running? Lucy has her own issues to contend with including the injury of Hot Lips, one of her favorite goats. Can Lucy’s boyfriend/veterinarian Tobias save the beloved creature?

There’s never a dull moment as Lucy and her neighbors strive to keep their small farms profitable. Lucy ends up confronting a potential murder suspect with the help of an unlikely accomplice and possible suspect. As usual, Karen has included a collection of recipes. I’ll pass on the King Ranch Chicken Casserole, though I love the title. But the Peach Iced Tea sounds juicy and flavorful – quite intriguing.

I’m reminiscing about the sweet, tangy flesh of the Reliance White peach tree my Mom planted in the dooryard of our farmhouse.

Book Review of Here’s to us by Elin Hilderbrand

Three ex-wives meet on Nantucket Island at the house owned by their former husband, Deacon Thorpe, celebrity chef, in Elin Hilderbrand’s book, Here’s to us.

As expected, the ladies’ efforts toward civility as they await the delivery of Dylan’s ashes for the ceremonial spreading on the water fall short of that goal. Complications between each other, their children, and the bombshell dropped by Dylan’s manager and best friend, that he died in debt, create obvious tension and uncertainty.

What will happen to the Nantucket house? Will Dylan’s well-off actress wife come up with the cash needed to bring the loan payments up-to-date?

Amid tension and uncertainty, everyone shares one thing in common – a love for Deacon, despite his shortcomings and the shock at the reveal of his insolvency. In the end, the wives achieve a truce of sorts. Two of the wives and one of Dylan’s daughters launch new romances.

I loved the story in spite of my usual disdain for drama. The references to Nantucket’s upscale focus on tradition – on worn furnishings and minimally maintained homes, living the life on Nantucket – meaning simple, no-tech entertainment, whole days on the beach, outdoor showers, The fact that Dylan, despite multiple marriages, and some irresponsible decisions truly left his family a legacy of love.