Friday, February 20, 2015

The Body in the Birches (Faith Fairchild Series Book #22)

Author:  Katherine Hall Page
Genre:  Mystery

Five Stars

At home on Sanpere Island, Maine, caterer and amateur sleuth Faith Fairchild discovers that real estate can be murder, especially when it’s all in the family, in this twenty-third book in the popular mystery series.

The Fourth of July is one of the hottest on record and even the breeze off Penobscot Bay can’t seem to cool things down for Faith Fairchild and the rest of the folks on Sanpere Island. But the fireworks are just beginning. After the celebrations are over, Faith discovers a body in the woods near The Birches, an early twentieth-century “cottage.”

The body is identified as The Birches’ housekeeper, who seems to have succumbed to a heart attack. The death is only one of the dramatic events upending the historic house. A family gathering has been called to decide who will inherit the much loved, and very valuable, estate that has been in the Proctor family for generations. With this much money involved, it’s just a matter of time before trouble arises.

Faith is juggling her own family problems. Her teenage son, Ben, has started a new job as a dishwasher at The Laughing Gull Lodge—learning things that could land him in very hot water. And her daughter Amy is worried about her new friend, Daisy Proctor. Daisy is terrified—convinced that someone is trying to eliminate her mother from getting a share of The Birches. To protect her children, Faith has to find a possible murderer—before he strikes too close to her own home.

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Faith and her family are staying for part of the summer with friends at The Pines, a home on Sanpere Island, while they wait for their own home to be finished and ready to move back into.  While there, she runs into her kids' old babysitter, Sophie Maxwell.  It turns out Sophie has been 'ordered' to the island by her mother, Babs, who is on a cruise with her new husband, and needs Sophie to represent her.  Why?  Because her Uncle Paul is going to make a decision about who is going to get the family 'cottage' The Birches; and he has invited all family members involved to stay for the month of July while he makes his decision.

Sophie is reeling from a romance in England that has gone bad.  Giving up everything - her apartment and her job - for true love, it was a shock finding her boyfriend in bed with another woman.  So she retreats home as fast as she can, and easily acquiesces to her mother, figuring the time away will allow her to heal.  It all seems straightforward and easy, until Sophie realizes soon after arriving that not one relative is willing to let go of the home and will do whatever it takes to achieve their ends.  And Uncle Paul has invited his nephew Will for the summer, for reasons Sophie doesn't even care to understand.

When the family cook/housekeeper, Bev, is found dead from an apparent heart attack, Sophie takes on the duties of the house, cooking and cleaning, with very little (and I mean very little) help from anyone in the family, who seem to think the duties are beneath them, but Sophie realizes things need to be done, and she jumps right in.

Then Faith's husband Tom is called away because his mother had a heart attack, and Faith remains on the island with the kids; Ben has a summer job at up at the lodge, with an apparent crush on another employee, Mandy; and Amy has made a new friend in Daisy, who is one of the relatives staying at The Birches.

So now we have the ingredients for a very good mystery indeed.  Ms. Page has added a wonderful addition to the Faith Fairchild series.  There are several stories that mesh together seamlessly, and each told in a way that keeps you wanting more.  While I am loath to reveal any more information, I will tell you that this book left me wanting to know more about Sophie and I hope she reappears in another book.

As in previous books, the ending ties everything up nicely, and even though this is the 22nd book in the series, it can certainly be read as a stand alone.  Highly recommended.




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