Wednesday, January 31

Trap Door by Sarah Graves

Review by Gloria Feit

Jacobia ["Jake"] Tiptree, her two dogs, her cat, and her best friend, Ellie, are back, as is Jake's ex-husband's ghost.

Uncharacteristically for this series [if memory serves], the "bad guy" in Sarah Graves' newest Home Repair is Homicide mystery, is a paid assassin, Walter Henderson.  But the murder he is planning on page 1 of "Trap Door" is personal, not professional.  Despite his planned retirement from a "long, successful career of killing people for money," and but for one loose end he still has to tie up, he's now decided that the only way to get rid of the punk who has charmed his beloved teenage daughter is by the means he knows best.  But it seems that the boy has saved him the trouble, for Walter finds his body hanging below the trap door of the loft in Walter's barn.  Is it really the suicide it appears to be?  Al though I was skeptical that a couple of tiny threads of fabric stuck on a hangnail of the victim's hand would really warrant such a suspicion; but maybe that's just me.

But back to that loose end, who turns out to be a wiseguy, Jemmy Wechsler, Jake's friend from her former life as money manager to the mob.  Jemmy knows Walter plans to kill him, and calls in a favor by asking Jake to let him hide out in her cottage in Eastport, Maine, where Walter also lives.  The spotlight turned on Walter by the body found in his barn, though, is certainly a complicating factor, from anyone's point of view.

The trademark home repair tips that preface every chapter but the first, as in the preceding books in the series, are always interesting and practical.  There are poignant thoughts of mothers of teenage sons over whom they have little if any control.  The final scene is the always satisfying gather-all-the-suspects-in-one-room-and-identify-the-killer, though somewhat implausible in this instance.

Eastport, Maine, where the author as well as her protagonist make their home, is on an island a few miles off the coast of Maine [although hopefully the author's home is sans ghost, ex-husband or otherwise], and is beautifully depicted, and the book is as charming as its protagonist.

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