Readers would be hard-pressed to find crime fiction more genteel than that written by Katherine Hall Page. Even though she is writing about murder, secrets, and other nefarious activity, Page does so with a restrained pen – making her a favorite of those who enjoy traditional and cozy mysteries. With over 20 books in her Faith Fairchild series and being bestowed with the Lifetime Achievement honor at this week’s Malice Domestic, needless to say, she is doing something right.
The Body is the Birches involves the inheritance of an early twentieth-century cottage on Sanpere Island. When Priscilla McAllister passed away, she left specific instructions that those interested in inheriting The Birches should gather together on the island so that a decision could be made. Unsure of how that decision is going to be made, the family begins to gather over the Fourth of July weekend. When the long-time housekeeper of the cottage dies from a heart attack, it becomes clear that this is not going to be a victim-less process.
At the center of the property squabble – and the book – is Sophie Maxwell. She is such a well-crafted character that she is now a fan favorite and once again features in the 2016 Faith Fairchild mystery – The Body in the Wardrobe. Sophie’s bantering with Will, another family member on-hand, is one of the many delights of this novel. Like Faith, Sophie is a realistically flawed individual with a truly good heart.
Of course, Faith Fairchild has a significant role in the novel, but she is not the focus of this outing in the series. Her struggles with her children, husband, and in-laws intermingle with the story of inheritance at the core. This serves to reinforce the underlying theme of the novel – family and loyalty.
As always, Katherine Hall Page excels at bringing the setting to life. Readers will long to runaway to Sanpere Island. It is almost as though one can feel the sticky heat of the summer breeze, as well as smell the delightful aromas of the food being prepared for the holiday celebration (the recipes for many of which are included at the end of the novel).
The Body is the Birches is the perfect distraction from everyday life. Both fans of the Faith Fairchild series and newcomers to Katherine Hall Page’s work will find much to entertain them within these pages.
Disclaimer: A print version of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher. No review was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.