Monday, August 7, 2017

Tightening the Threads by Lea Wait

Reviewed by Jeanne

When Ted Lawrence announces to his family that not only has he found a niece he didn’t know existed, but that he is going to leave said niece millions of dollars in paintings, the consternation is certainly understandable.  Still, Ted’s death by poisoning the next day takes most of the family by surprise—but not, presumably, the killer.

Naturally, Ted’s children want to pin the murder on the newly discovered relative, but investigator Angie Curtis isn’t going to let that happen.

This is the fifth in the Mainely Needlepoint Series, but could certainly be read as a standalone.  The stories revolve around Angie, a former assistant to a private detective in Arizona.  She’s recently returned to Maine and has been helping her grandmother with her needlepoint business. Gram and a group of needle workers produce embroidered souvenirs as well as doing custom work and restoration.  However, more and more the business which served as a “hook” to lure readers recedes in the background in favor of a focus on characters and the community. This is only a problem if someone were looking for craft pointers—in which case, I’d recommend non-fiction books on the topic.  Much of my enjoyment comes from the characters anyway, and I’d prefer to spend time with them. Wait does continue her tradition of beginning each chapter with a quotation about needlework, often text from a vintage sampler with a bit of information on its maker.  I skipped these in the early books, but now I read them all even if they don’t illuminate the mystery at hand. They seem reflect the mood of the books, which seem more aware than most cozies that life does change, sometimes for good and sometimes for ill, but there is continuity. Life goes on.

At the center is Angie, an independent young woman who never knew who her father was, and whose mother went missing when she was still a child.  She was reared and loved by her grandmother who gave her stability, but there’s still a bit of a void in her life. The circumstances of her life may have shaped her, but they don’t define her.  In addition, Wait has built up a believable roster of characters and makes good use of them, ensuring that when a character appears that character actually serves a function.   I also enjoy Wait’s plotting; while there are often two or more mysteries in a book, they may or may not be connected. This certainly upends some readers’ expectations and makes solutions more of a challenge.  The Maine setting is vividly described, giving readers a strong sense of place.

Solid story, solid characters, solid series.  This is one of my “old reliables,” a series I can count on to hold my attention and to entertain me. When reading this series, I have actually been known to walk an extra couple of thousand steps on the treadmill to read “just one more chapter.” THAT is high praise indeed.

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