The Body in the Birches: A Faith Fairchild Mystery by Katherine Hall Page (William Morris, $24.99, 242 pages)
Prolific author Katherine Hall Page places her title character, Faith Fairchild, into the middle of an extended family squabble over a lovely Maine vacation home called The Birches. The Sanpere Island retreat has been in the Proctor family for many generations, its value increasing with each passing decade. The death of Priscilla Proctor Maxwell was the triggering event in the squabble. Priscilla, a pragmatist, left specific instructions in her will that nixed the notion of sharing the retreat among the various family members. She felt that would only lead to friction around who would use it, and when, and who would pay for the upkeep and repairs.
Paul Maxwell, Priscilla’s widower, has been directed to gather the extended family during July with the intent of selecting the best recipient of The Birches. The second most important character, Sophie Maxwell, a lawyer who’s taking a break from corporate legal life, goes to The Birches at the urging of her mother. Sophie and her mother are contenders for the retreat. The rest of the family runs the gamut from greedy to vicious.
Faith Fairchild, daughter of a minister and wife of a minister, is in the midst of a remodel to the modest Sampere Island vacation home that she, her husband and children cherish. During the remodel, Faith and the children are staying with a dear friend who happens to live next door to The Birches. Surprise, Faith stumbles across a dead body in the woods that separate the two houses. Thus begins Faith’s sleuthing.
Along the way, there are accusations, suspicions and the involvement of the great-nephew of Paul Maxwell that spice up the interactions of the characters. No spoiler alerts here!
The Body in the Birches is a worthy read for a summer vacation at the beach or in the mountains. The author does an excellent job of creating a sense of place and peoples it with well-developed and interesting characters.
The Body in the Wardrobe: A Faith Fairchild Mystery by Katherine Hall Page (William Morrow, $25.99, 237 pages)
This installment of the series features Sophie Maxwell as she begins to acclimate in her new hometown of Savannah, Georgia. Sophie has taken up residence in a house that is being fixed up by her new mother-in-law. Yes, Sophie has married. No, I’m not going to reveal who she has married as that will be a definite spoiler for readers who are working their way through the series and haven’t yet read The Body in the Birches. All you need to know is that Sophie is surrounded by a very tight clique of locals who delight in reminding her of her outside/Yankee status.
Savannah is possibly best known as a city with ghosts and spirits that haunt older homes. There are several references within this story to the wonderful book, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, by John Berendt. Sophie has her own up close and personal encounter with a dead man in the large wardrobe upstairs in one of the bedrooms of the house where she and her husband are living until they find a place of their own to purchase.
Sadly, few of Sophie’s new acquaintances, and most-notably her husband, do not believe that she has found a dead body. That’s because it vanishes before the police arrive in response to her call for assistance. There are more instances that set Sophie’s nerves on edge and she reaches out to her new friend Faith Fairchild for moral support and assistance. Faith is having a tough time dealing with her kids and husband. Together, Faith and Sophie bolster each other’s morale and get to the bottom of the mystery surrounding the disappearing body.
This book will be appreciated most by readers who love the South and have an acquaintance with Savannah. The author knows her topic and presents it seamlessly while putting her characters through their paces.
Review copies were provided by the publisher.