Thursday, January 07, 2010

Mystery Book Review: The Body in the Sleigh by Katherine Hall Page

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of The Body in the Sleigh by Katherine Hall Page. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

The Body in the Sleigh by Katherine Hall Page

A Faith Fairchild Mystery

William Morrow (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-06-147425-8 (0061474258)
ISBN-13: 978-0-06-147425-5 (9780061474255)
Publication Date: October 2009
List Price: $24.99

Review: Katherine Hall Page incorporates a traditional Christmas story within a murder mystery in The Body in the Sleigh, the 18th entry in this series featuring caterer and amateur sleuth Faith Fairchild.

The body in the sleigh is of a young woman, carefully placed between two other lifeless figures -- mannequins -- that are part of a holiday display in the center of Sanpere Island. As Faith notes upon discovering the body, this was not an example of Christmas cheer, but the polar opposite. But Faith's attention is quickly diverted by another unexpected visitor to the island -- a baby found in the barn of Mary Bethany, a local resident who lived alone on a goat farm. If the baby is a surprise, so is what accompanied him: $50,000 in one-hundred dollar bills. Though there is nothing to link the dead woman with the baby boy, Faith surmises that there must be a connection and sets out to discover what it is.

The Body in the Sleigh is a pleasant enough mystery, though by no means a demanding one. The final paragraph of the second chapter pretty much summarizes what is to follow: "But the something-wrong-with-this-picture was the mound of cash on the kitchen table. Cash that Faith had a strong feeling didn't lawfully belong to [the baby's] mother. And the real owner wasn't going to waste any time looking for it. Looking for it all over the great state of Maine." The identity of the dead woman is a little more uncertain, but an extended backstory threaded through the main story fills in those details.

The yuletide message, as it were, though, is somewhat heavy-handed. A baby named Christopher, found in the barn of a virgin named Mary, on a clear Christmas Eve night with a bright star overhead, is a little overly contrived, even for a spiritual novel, which this isn't ... exactly. Fans of this series will likely be content with the story and how it plays out here, but it all seems a bit too strained and overdone, formulaic even.

Special thanks to HarperCollins for providing an ARC of The Body in the Sleigh for this review.

Review Copyright © 2010 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved

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Synopsis (from the publisher): It's Christmastime, and the Fairchild family is spending the holidays on idyllic Sanpere Island in Maine while the Reverend Thomas Fairchild recuperates from surgery. His caterer wife, Faith, is rejoicing in the rare, holiday family-time together—watching ice boaters, snowshoeing, and doing plenty of reading in front of the fire.

But Faith's high spirits are dampened when she discovers the body of a young woman in an antique sleigh in front of the Sanpere Historical Society. The victim, Norah, was a teenage drug addict who apparently died by her own hand. Beloved by many, her untimely death rocks the isolated, tight-knit island community.

Meanwhile, Mary Bethany, a local spinster who raises goats, happens upon a newborn baby boy lying in the manger of her barn on Christmas Eve. The only clues to his identity are a note in the basket asking her to take care of him, as well as an alarming amount of cash. As Faith helps Mary locate the baby's mother, she soon finds that the truth behind the abandonment is connected to Norah's last days—and that, just as death and life are intertwined on Sanpere, so are evil and redemptive goodness.

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Lance Wright owns and manages Omnimystery, a Family of Mystery Websites, which had its origin as Hidden Staircase Mystery Books in 1986. As the scope of the business expanded, first into book reviews — Mysterious Reviews — and later into information for and reviews of mystery and suspense television and film, all sites were consolidated under the Omnimystery brand in 2006.

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