(Reviewed by Melanie Hamilton)
It is a kind of relief when, after being laid off from the law firm, Sophie Maxwell learns that she has to take her mother’s place-who, by the way is in Europe with her new husband- at their family’s summer home, The Birches, on Little Sanpere Island, Maine. That relief is short-lived when she discovers why they have all been summoned: late Aunt Priscilla has left instructions that someone gets to have the cottage all to themselves.
She takes refuge from the positioning of her relatives in Faith Fairchild’s company, who happens to be staying next door at The Pines while her own cottage is being renovated. When the bodies start falling, Faith’s presence is a good thing. Besides being brilliant in the kitchen, she has a knack for uncovering secrets. One of the secrets she uncovers is Sophie’s cooking skills. The other is her capacity to remain calm in the middle of chaos. I suspect that Faith will find a use for both qualities in future books.
As a fan of cozy mysteries and especially ones with recipes and patterns, I happily picked this one from the catalog. I was a bit disappointed at first. Probably because this is the twenty-second book of the Faith Fairchild Mysteries series. Once I put my expectations aside though, I found myself comfortably ensconced in the story. Sophie is the star of this story with Faith taking a supportive role. The usual family characters are here as well as one unusual one. New England has its own peculiar character and its residents reflect both the seasonal and the historical eccentricities we might expect.
The Body in the Birches is less a murder mystery than a family melodrama, but only to Faith and Sophie. For me, finding out who gets the Birches is almost as satisfying as finding out who did the others in.