Saturday, August 29, 2015

Maine Mystery: Lea Wait, THREADS OF EVIDENCE

Maine author Lea Wait is on a roll with the second in her new "Mainely Needlepoint Mystery" series, featuring Angela Curtis -- young (in her 20s), inquisitive, struggling to pull her grandmother's cleverly created needlepoint business into the 21st century, and best of all, formerly employed by a private investigator in Arizona, so she knows how to pry into crime scenes and police situations, and ... she carries a handgun when needed. Good thing, considering that she's prying into long-buried murders.

In the first book of the series, Twisted Threads, Angie's return from her 10 years "away" took place because her long-missing Mama had been found. Well, her body, anyway. And in spite of threats and risks, Angie settled into quaint, tourist-dependent Haven Harbor, Maine, and dug up the real story of her mother's disappearance and death.

So now in THREADS OF EVIDENCE she already has a bit of a reputation in town as a crime solver, even though she keeps explaining she was never a licensed PI -- she just did the legwork for one. Well, that's good enough. At least, wealthy and gracious actress Skye West thinks so, as she recruits Angie to discover the truth about another long-ago death, one from 1970, when Skye's best friend, a teen named Jasmine, died suddenly during a party at the Gardener estate in town. The actress needs someone who can speak directly with police officers, without cringing, and who'll go from one person to another, among the many town residents who might have seen or known something about Jasmine's death. Skye West has good reason to believe it wasn't an accident. And when her own drink is poisoned with arsenic during the first Open House at the estate, the actress is even more convinced -- and so is Angie.

I moved "paid work" out of the way to make room to finish this book last week, because it was so well written that I didn't want to put it down. (Yes, I read way too late into a couple of nights!) Angie's reactions and choices are spot on target. And although I hated hearing from one character after another that 1970 was a LONG time ago (hey, I still have a photo of my miniskirt and fishnet stockings from back then, and can hum most of the Vietnam War-era folk songs), I have to admit it's true -- and because of the distance in time, it works perfectly for Wait's deft creation of an "edgy cozy" series, where real deaths happen but "off stage" and there's no gore ... but look out for arsenic, fire, and other scary events that stack up when you're stalking someone who didn't have enough sense in the past to solve things normally, but killed someone instead.

A small extra that I especially enjoyed in THREADS OF EVIDENCE is the quotes at the start of each chapter, most of which come from needlework, like samplers, done in New England a couple of centuries ago. Readers of Wait's earlier series, the "Shadows" one, will recall this device from those books, and it works even better here, to dress the stories in mood and place.

Kensington Books, publisher of this lively series, must have a lot of faith in it, too: I see the next one is coming out in January, Thread and Gone. I'm glad I'll be able to have an extra dose of Angie Curtis sooner than the traditional "1 year" gap between books.

Oh, you don't need to read Twisted Threads (book 1) before this one -- Wait is adept at summarizing the important points to get the reader into the swing of the sequel -- but why not? The books are "paperback originals" (no hardcover) and fit nicely into a travel bag, with brief chapters ideal for waiting in line (or other challenges of modern outside-of-rural-Maine life). They'll make good gifts, too, full of a sense of community and friendship as well as Angie's determination not to let a killer get away with something. Thanks, Lea Wait and Kensington; what a way to wrap up the summer!

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