Monday, September 01, 2014

SHADOWS ON A MAINE CHRISTMAS, Lee Wait: Death, Deception, and Delightful Mystery

This is Lee Wait's seventh "Shadows" mystery featuring Maggie Summer, a dealer in antique prints whose New England escapades have included falling hard for another antique dealer -- but Will now lives in Maine, and Maggie in New Jersey, and both of them have reasons to think they won't be working the circuit of antique shows together in the future.

So Maggie's arrival in Waymouth, Maine, to join Will and his frail but indomitable Aunt Nettie, looks like trouble even before there's a hint of criminal activity creeping into the Christmas season. Maggie's implementing plans to adopt a daughter (maybe even two sisters!), and Will's made it clear he doesn't want any part of fatherhood. Despite the frictions the two had around personal secrets in the previous book (Shadows on a Cape Cod Wedding), Maggie hasn't been candid with Will about how steadily she's moving toward being an adoptive mom.

And Will's surprise for Maggie is the oversized house he's considering buying, one where he can open an antiques mall of sorts, and which will tie him down even further. It only takes a few pages to prove there's no ready solution to the complications in front of the twosome.

Still, Aunt Nettie and her friends have the kind of hard-earned life wisdom that Maggie needs. And when one of the circle turns up dead on Christmas morning, Maggie's own stubbornness and determination to help the elderly friends turns out to be what the small-town residents need most.

The Maine descriptions in SHADOWS ON A MAINE CHRISTMAS are a delight, from the details of the holiday with Aunt Nettie, to the tourist-style trip Will creates in downtown Portland for Maggie. Lee Wait's own passion for her adopted state comes through beautifully, along with Will's intent to show Maggie a wonderful, magical time for her holiday.

But a death on Christmas day? Just as Maggie had declared to Aunt Nettie that the day had been perfect? It's Will who breaks the news of caregiver Carrie Folk's death to the two women after taking a phone call from his police officer friend:
"Was there an accident?" Aunt Nettie asked. "She seemed well last night."

"No. Worse than that. She was murdered. Nick's calling everyone who was [the friends'] party yesterday, in case someone noticed anything he should know about. Anything unusual."

Aunt Nettie nodded slowly. "Will, would you call Nicky back? I know it's Christmas Day, but I think he should come over here. I have something he needs to see."
When Aunt Nettie reveals that the victim, Carrie, attempted recently to blackmail her, and that the caregiver may have had other targets as well, Maggie's curiosity is quickly fired up -- even as the police take over. After all, one woman listening to another, well, that's a powerful exchange. Soon Maggie suspects that the blackmail story isn't quite the whole truth of what's in Aunt Nettie's past.

I loved discovering what Aunt Nettie and her friends were really hiding, along with Maggie as she persuades the ladies to reveal the twists of their past, involving even the Bath Iron Works and effects of the Second World War. And Maggie's thinking fast on her feet: "How would Carrie Folk have known what you did so long ago?"

Even as she starts to work with the circle of older ladies, Maggie's under pressure to "behave" as a proper out-of-town girlfriend on the scene, rather than the experienced amateur sleuth she has become, as Nick orders her, "And don't do anything dangerous. Anything which might be even remotely hazardous to anyone else's life. All right?"

Right. That's not going to solve the case very quickly, is it? Still, some undercover sleuthing may keep Maggie's mind of what she suspects is going to be a painful collapse of her tender romance with Will. Ouch.

And what she discovers -- well, I think it's one of the best and most intriguing plot twists that Wait has created for this plucky and outspoken newcomer to the fiercely protective community of Waymouth, Maine. In fact, I think I'll put my copy of Wait's book on the shelf near the holiday books, so I can read it a second time as December arrives. And of course I'll keep an eye on the author's website at, as there's a new Maine series coming from this author in January.

What a great way to fill the bookshelf! And let's see, who's on my holiday list to get a copy of this quick-paced and charming mystery ... naughty and nice, that's SHADOWS ON A MAINE CHRISTMAS, for sure!


J.P. Choquette said...

Sounds like a great read--and a perfect Christmas gift!

Beth Kanell said...

Totally on target, J.P.! And I really enjoy Lea Wait's smooth writing style, a polished storyteller with an eye toward the special friendships among women.

Lea Wait said...

Thank you so much for your kind words, Beth! Praise from en expert.. is the best kind. All best wishes.

Lea Wait

Beth Kanell said...

Well earned, Lea!