Monday, April 04, 2011

Lea Wait, SHADOWS OF A DOWN EAST SUMMER: Traditional Mystery, Well Crafted

The fifth in Lea Wait's "Shadows" series featuring antique print dealer Maggie Summer has arrived -- and SHADOWS OF A DOWN EAST SUMMER is a perfect read for vacation. But why wait until June? Don't we deserve a spring reading break? You bet!

Maggie and her increasingly serious "beau" Will Brewer arrive at the charming town of Waymouth, Maine, for their own working vacation, staying (in separate rooms!) at the home of Will's Aunt Nettie. Will intends to catch up on some house maintenance for his aging aunt; Maggie needs a break from the tensions of her life in New Jersey and hopes that she and Will can both make some money at an upcoming regional antiques show.

But Aunt Nettie has other ideas. Setting Maggie up to meet Carolyn Chase right away, Aunt Nettie expects her guest to dig into local history, for the sake of fresh insight into an woman artist related to Carolyn. The new connection clicks, and Maggie finds herself custodian to a journal from Waymouth's earliest days as an arts colony on the coast. What nobody planned on, though, is that the journal may include valuable information on a possible long-ago child of noted artist Homer Winslow. And if such heritage could be proved, it might be worth a fortune to Winslow's current descendants, if they exist.

But there are other possible secrets in the journal, and almost immediately, risk, danger, and death scatter around Maggie. Most terribly, Aunt Nettie herself is hurt badly by some searcher, and while Maggie struggles to identify the crucial information in her possession, she also struggles with what will become of her relationship with Will if he decides to move in with his frail aunt. And even if she wanted to stand back, events won't let her, as a phone call from an attorney demonstrates:
"Dr. Summer, just because we're from Maine doesn't mean we're uneducated. Everyone involved with Susan Newell's estate and Carolyn Chase's unfortunate demise is quite aware of the value any paintings connected to Helen Chase could have. Frankly, your coming into our peaceful community and accusing local people of crimes is not very smart."

"Are you threatening me?" asked Maggie. Her voice stayed even, but she felt the muscles in her shoulders tightening.

"I'm telling you the truth. A murder has been committed. The police have a lot of questions to answer. I'm asking you to stay out of this investigation, Maggie Summer. Just stay out."

The connection clicked off.
This double mystery -- crimes in the present, secrets in the past -- is also full of details about artwork, prints, and values. A charming side note comes from descriptions of interesting "real" prints, in colorful detail with explanations of why they have value, at the start of each chapter. And although there's plenty of suspense, there's very little gore -- Maggie's strength of character keeps her from acting any victim role herself, and her curiosity and determination see her through to unraveling the threads of art and time.

This will be a great book to pack for a day at the beach -- or on the back porch, or even with your feet up in the living room. Exploring Maine village life with Maggie Summer provides an old-fashioned escape into a world where neighbors matter, justice can be earned, and truth eventually is revealed. Don't we all need some of that? Thanks, Lea, for continuing this series of good reads! See the full list of books at the author's website.


Clea Simon said...

Lea Wait's books are always a breath of fresh air. Very classic whodunits, masterfully done. Glad to hear about this one!

Clea Simon said...

I've always found Lea Wait's mysteries to be a breath of fresh air - as you put it, classic whodunits, masterfully done. Thanks for alerting me to this one!

Beth Kanell said...

Dave just reminded me that we have a signed copy of Lea Wait's SHADOWS ON THE IVY available: