the Home Repair is Homicide mystery series continues,
Jacobia "Jake" Tiptree sees an old buddy: Jemmy Wechsler, who has
been running from the mob for forever. Only one killer is still
after Jemmy these days, though: Walter Henderson, who has retired
to Eastport. Jemmy knows that Henderson will hunt him until he's
dead and has decided that he can't live his life waiting to die. He
wants to confront his enemy and fix the situation --- as if Jake
doesn't have enough on her hands with her money pit old house, her
irascible housekeeper and being haunted by her dead ex-husband,
Victor. She's not thinking too much about the mysterious old book
listing the house's tenants (inexplicably including Jake's own
name) since she shipped it off to an expert.
Jake literally owes everything to Jemmy since he rescued her as a
runaway teen. She offers to let Jemmy live in her cabin, even as
her friend Ellie warns her that she is making a huge mistake. While
Jake and Ellie (try to) build a dock, Ellie assures Jake that she
will be Henderson's target, too. For one thing, it appears there's
a missing 18-year-old boy, Cory Trow, who was in the process of
being convicted of stalking Henderson's gorgeous daughter. Ellie
suspects that the boy has taken off but also fears that Henderson
might find and kill him.
Jake is determined to speak with Henderson about Jemmy. She and
Ellie sneak onto his property, eventually finding themselves face
to face with a hanged man who turns out to be Cory Trow. Although
there's a note, Jake is sure that the death isn't the suicide it
appears to be, partly because of a scrap of fabric caught in the
dead boy's fingernail.
Jake soon learns that Cory had a secret wife and child, plus a life
insurance policy that is now worthless since he supposedly killed
himself. As Jake is drawn further into the web of mystery, her own
life is endangered.
The subplots in TRAP DOOR are irresistible, particularly one
regarding the strange book found in Jake's house. While the
momentum is sometimes disrupted by conversational interludes
mulling over the case, Sarah Graves more than makes up for the
occasional lull with an atmosphere saturated with downeast Maine
charm and the vagaries of endless home repair that anyone who has
lived in an old house can relate to. In addition, the book is
filled with Jake's laugh-out-loud asides.
The characters are quirky enough to be real without being over the
top; Jake's maternal heartbreak over her son's substance abuse
issues adds a poignant note. TRAP DOOR is very enjoyable reading
and highly recommended.
Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon (firstname.lastname@example.org) on January 23, 2011