Maine author Lea Wait's newest "Mainely Needlepoint Mystery" is a true charmer, packed with seasonal and Maine-winter details, as well as the sweetly developing romance between Angie Curtis -- once a private investigator of the gritty sort out West, and now "back home" in a New England seaside village -- and Patrick West.
Patrick, whose hands were badly burned in an earlier title in the series, is about to celebrate his first New England traditional Christmas with Angie, when his famous film actress mother Skye West announces she'll be on set with them, so to speak -- along with her co-star, screenwriter, and more, from a film she's been working on in Europe that's rumored to have major problems. Toss that dream of an intimate lovers' holiday out the (frosty) window!
Soon Angie is also tugged into the famous family's last-minute decorating and feasting plans. Top this off with a rush needlepoint assignment that engages all the members of the collaborative she's been developing. Good thing there's some mistletoe available to prompt a kiss. But on the other hand, discovering a dead body in the snowy field behind the movie star's mansion seems unlikely to endear Angie to anyone -- not even the local police, who have their own reasons for mixed feelings about the half-pro, half-amateur sleuth that Angie is becoming.
Wait's Mainely Needlepoint series, much like her earlier "Shadows" one, includes chapter-opening tags describing antique needlepoint samplers and their creators, which adds a special pleasure to her books. In addition, she's in her glory when piling holiday details into a story -- this time, including the arrival of Santa Claus (and a moose!) on a boat in the small town's harbor. (There's a recipe at the end, too -- mmm.)
The book is neatly layered with tensions and suspense. And if Angie doesn't seem like she's doing much active sleuthing this time (the discovery of the murderer isn't really from her efforts), well, she's got her hands full trying to defend herself in a lot of directions! Wait's own track record promises a happy ending, but there seem no guarantees until the final few pages. As a result, this is a snow-sprinkled, holly-merry, twinkling page-turner of a mystery. I enjoyed every twist, and the book's comforting feel of community support will move it onto several of my gift lists for this holiday season.
No need to read the previous five titles in this series before THREAD THE HALLS. But they do add depth to Angie in particular, so it will be fun to gather them and have a good holiday reading binge. Candy-cane-stirred cocoa and sugar cookies optional (or dangerous, depending on which chapter you're reading!).
PS: Looking for more mystery reviews, from cozy to very dark? Browse the Kingdom Books mysteries review blog here.