Sunday, January 26, 2014

New Hampshire Mystery "Today" with Historic Ties: Tempa Pagel's 2nd "Andy Gammon" Mystery

I missed the first Andy Gammon mystery from Tempa Pagel -- so I'm going to have to find a copy of Here's the Church, Here's the Steeple, for the fun of seeing how this deft plotter weaves together New England history with current mystery in her first round.

But I'm delighted that the second Andy Gammon, THEY DANCED BY THE LIGHT OF THE MOON, came my way! It's due to release in mid February from Five Star, a publisher rising rapidly in the mysteries field, and if either the New Hampshire setting or 1901 revelations mean this book needs to be in your collection, you may want to pre-order a copy ... Five Star print runs are usually modest and the first printings often sell out. I bet this will be one of those.

Andy Gammon is young woman with two lively children and a tolerant husband. She also has a mom who aids and abets her in getting involved in murder investigations. Good thing -- because the death at the newly renovated Grand Hotel of the Atlantic (a lightly disguised version of the Wentworth-by-the-Sea Hotel in Newcastle, NH) isn't even in Andy's home town. So how can she expect law enforcement to let her into the official process of finding the killer of the odd young woman she met during the hotel's opening meal and tour? She can't. She's got to do it all the way so many amateur sleuths have pursued criminals all along: by interviewing witnesses (uh-oh) and possible future vistims (!), and sniffing around where she's not supposed to be.

In Andy's case, that includes the very spooky grounds of an abandoned mental hospital, a grand and fortified but definitely crumbling architectural gem in Danvers, Massachusetts (sister city to neighboring Salem, Mass., although that doesn't come up in this book). Does she dare to trespass, against all warnings -- and to do it with a group of ghost hunters and a woman once in long-term treatment in the mental hospital? If she does, will her husband forgive her? And will she be safe??
The actual Danvers State Hospital.

This is a classic "traditional" mystery with a dash of the presence of Andy's predecessor in adventure, Marguerite Miller -- who disappeared from the hotel in 1901 and left behind a significant journal that we readers get to peek into, long before Andy finds a copy. But she's on the trail of any crime that may have involved Marguerite, as well as the young woman who claimed -- before her death at the hotel -- to be related to Marguerite Miller. (My one quibble with the book was an occasional slip on exactly how the two were supposedly related ... which may have been ironed out in the published version ... I read the advance "uncorrected proof.") Readers who appreciate a well-plotted "cozy" or traditional mystery will also enjoy Andy's mom and husband, and they way they complicate and sometimes assist her detection.

(I also got an extra smile out of discovering the trail of one of my grammy's relatives in this -- Thomas Story Kirkbride, whose great-grandfather Mahlon was the 4-greats grandfather of my grandmother Marguerite Harriet Kirkbride Taylor. Check out how this early psychologist's ideas of treatment and of architecture affect both Marguerite Miller's death and Andy's scariest moments.)

Author Tempa Pagel lives in the Massachusetts seaside town of Newburyport, with a family parallel to Andy Gammon's. I'm looking forward to reading more of her books! And ... great news ... she'll be HERE on the Kingdom Books blog as we get closer to her book's release date. Don't forget to order your copy! And check her website for events, to meet her and get a signed copy in person:

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