Reviewed by Jeanne
Angie Curtis’ mother was a source of delight for the town gossips. She was flashy, independent, and sometimes unreliable. No one seemed to know who Angie’s father was, and if she knew, Mama wasn’t telling. And then one day she just disappeared, leaving Angie with her grandmother, Charlotte, and the town to indulge in wild speculation.
As soon as she was old enough, Angie hit the road, leaving Harbor Haven, Maine, far behind. She’s working for private investigator in Arizona when the call comes from Charlotte: It’s time to come home. They’ve found your mother.
To be precise, they’ve found her mother’s body in a freezer where apparently it’s been for the past decade.
So begins the Mainely Needlepoint Mystery series. While it has some of the features of a cozy mystery, there’s also a bit of grit and more than one mystery. When Angie returns, she finds that Gram and her friends have apparently been ripped off by an agent who was selling their needlework. They’re owed thousands of dollars, and some of them need the money badly. Angie agrees to try to find the missing agent and recover their money while they wait for the police to release her mother’s body and investigate the murder.
I picked this up because of the cat on the cover, and while there is a cat, she’s pretty much invisible. That didn’t stop me from thoroughly enjoying this book (though I did wonder if the author saw the cover and felt obligated to write in a cat!) One aspect that I particularly enjoyed was that both Angie and Charlotte are strong, independent women with common sense. Angie, while not a licensed P.I., has picked up a number of tricks of the trade, which make her believable as an investigator, though she doesn’t muscle her way onto the case. Charlotte especially is full of surprises. She doesn’t conform to the senior citizen stereotype , but neither does she swing too far out the other way and become the anti-granny caricature. (You know the sort: motorcycle mama, chomping cigars, and tossing out unfiltered comments designed to shock.) It’s nice to see a woman be mature without being OLD.
The same goes for the embroidery group, Mainely Needlepointers, who produce handcrafted souvenirs: some are retirees, some are young folk; for some it’s a hobby, for others a desperately needed source of income, which makes the possible swindle cut close to the bone. The characters are treated as individuals not cardboard, which bodes well for future volumes. I especially liked the antique shop owner, a young Australian woman who likes to quote Emily Dickinson.
The pacing is well done, balancing the older case with the newer one to keep the story moving forward. I also liked the way the author revealed the past and explained relationships in bits and pieces rather than an “information dump” in which everything is explained all at once. Both techniques can be effective, but both depend on the skill of the writer. I think Ms. Wait did well indeed with revealing these pieces without dropping bombshells on the reader. For me, this was a very well done first book to a series. Some tend to bog down as the author tries to set everything up for future books, but this one kept the story moving along. There’s also a nice use of the Maine setting: I never forgot where I was.
I’m definitely going to pick up the rest of the series. The second book is Threads of Evidence, while the third book, Thread and Gone, will be out at the end of the 2015.