THE BODY IN THE WARDROBE
By Katherine Hall Page
William Morrow, 2016
Kindle edition: $6.99
A Faith Fairchild Mystery
Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel
Faith Fairchild is delighted that her good friend Sophie Maxwell has married the man of her dreams, Will Maxwell, a distant relative, after a whirlwind courtship. She is not so thrilled that Sophie, who’s been living in New York City, will be moving to her new husband’s hometown of Savannah, Georgia, far from Faith’s New England home. The two pals vow to keep in touch by phone and to visit as often as they can. The phone calls become more frequent as their individual concerns grow more troubling.
Sophie wants to please her husband’s family and friends, but things get off to a bumpy start. One of his relatives plays a mean trick on her before her first formal entry into Savannah’s high society, under the guise of being helpful to the new bride. Her husband sees and stops her before she can make a fool of herself, but he is shocked and angry that she would do such a thing. Not wanting to cause a family rift, she doesn’t tell him who set her up. She realizes not everyone in the Maxwell clan wishes her well, but as things escalate, she can’t tell who is friend or foe.
Back in Aleford, Faith is wracking her brain, trying to figure out how to help her teenage daughter Amy without being too over-protective. Amy has been reassigned to a different middle school, leaving her tight network of friends for a snobby school where she is targeted by a vicious Mean Girl clique. At the same time, Faith’s husband Tom is struggling with an issue that could change everything for the family. Faith knows there something important on his mind, but he won’t talk about it.
Sophie and Will are staying in one of the palatial historic Savannah homes that Gloria, Will’s stepmother, is restoring to its former beauty. She looks forward to going house hunting with Will, but his latest case is keeping him in Atlanta most of the time. Will chose to use his law degree to become a private investigator rather than join his father’s law firm, to the dismay of his family. Will tells his wife that his cases are mostly boring white-collar cases, but this one seems to be taking forever.
Sophie isn’t afraid to be left alone with the ghosts said to reside in this home. She is, however, stunned and terrified when she opens the wardrobe in her bedroom and the body of a man tumbles out with a large knife sticking out of his back. She runs out into the night, fearing the killer might still be in the house. The police search the property thoroughly, but can’t locate the body or any indication that it was ever there. She can tell they, and the neighbors who came to gawk, think this Yankee woman either saw a ghost or was hallucinating. Will’s step-brother Randall arrives to take her to his home, where he and his wife cosset and humor her. They are delighted that Sophie might have seen a ghost. All the older Savannah homes and buildings are said to be haunted. Sophie is sure – almost positive – that what she saw was a real and recently dead man. Since it’s socially accepted to see a haunt, but not to have a hallucination, she goes along with it. She doesn’t stop trying to find out what really happened, and her tormentor, or tormentors, don’t cease their efforts to stop her.
Sophie doesn’t know who she can trust. She’s wondering if the real estate agent Will sets her up with in his absence has a hidden agenda. She can only depend on a neighbor who is also an outcast, and on her phone calls and texts to Faith. Her honeymoon is turning into a moss-covered nightmare, complete with ghouls and ghosts.
As with all the Faith Fairchild mysteries, there are plenty of food details and yummy recipes, from both the North and the South. Savannah is known for her succulent feasts and opulent dinner parties. The many formal events Sophie attends with her high-society new family offer plentiful seafood dishes, including oysters and shrimp, potent punch, and to-die-for desserts. The breakfasts Will enjoys are loaded with bacon and sausages, eggs and grits. At Faith’s catering company, Have Faith, she and her assistants whips up festive party treats, funeral meats, and everything in between. Her family eats very well, with lots of comfort food like homemade pimento cheese sandwiches and Indian pudding.
THE BODY IN THE WARDROBE is another gem in this always satisfying series. The plot is clever and intriguing, the characters each unique and memorable. The setting in lovely and historic Savannah adds to the enjoyment of the book. Highly recommended.
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