Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Guest Post: Jeanne and Treadmill Books-- Lea Wait: An Appreciation

It has been quite some time, but Jeanne of the BPL is back today with another post in her Treadmill Books series….

Lea Wait: An Appreciation

Sometimes I get in a reading rut.  There are books I trudge through, grimly determined not to give up, but I find myself looking for excuses not to read. This is a horrifying state of affairs.   In order to get my reading mojo back, I horde books that are guaranteed to get me happily reading.

One sure-fire jump starter is Lea Wait’s Mainely Needlepoint series.  I picked up Twisted Threads,  the first in the series,  almost by accident because the large print version featured a fine looking Maine Coon cat on the cover and it is one of Mma Ratmoswe’s  well known facts that I am a sucker for a book with a cat on the cover.  (Sadly, this is how I get into some of my reading ruts: the writing inside the book doesn’t live up to the cover.  While I actually do not require a cat to be part of the action, I do require interesting characters, some sort of a mystery, and decently good writing, preferably all three.)

I was quickly introduced to Angie Curtis, a young woman from Maine who was working as an assistant to a private investigator in Arizona.  Like many young people, she had fled the town where she grew up as quickly as she could and rarely looked back.  Angie’s mother had left her when she was a child, and while Angie was brought up by a loving grandmother, she still had to face the schoolyard taunts about her mother’s virtue—or lack thereof—and Angie’s unknown father.

A call from her grandmother, Charlotte, brings the one bit of news could cause Angie to come back to her former home:  her mother has been found. More precisely, her mother’s body has been found.

So began my introduction to a set of intriguing characters and an even more intriguing locale.  Angie is a strong and capable woman who has the courage to face the demons from her past.  As the series continues, Angie acquires a number of friends who form the supporting cast, each an individual not a cardboard character.  There’s Sarah Byrne, the Australian born antiques dealer who has an Emily Dickinson quotation for every occasion; Rev. Tom, a good-hearted minister who has befriended Charlotte; Patrick, the artist son of a famous actress; and a whole crew of ordinary folks who supplement their incomes by doing needlework to order: fishermen, a teacher (who has his own poison garden) and even a senior citizen who writes erotica under an assumed name. 

The town of Harbor Haven is almost a character in itself; Wait does a beautiful job of showing the reader around, as Angie rediscovers and remembers the place she grew up.  It’s more than just a picture postcard view, though, as we learn about the economic rhythms of a working seaside town.  Most cozy mysteries are content to give readers generic shopkeeping, not lobstering.  

For the first time in my life, I think I might like to visit Maine.

As an added attraction, every book features real quotations from antique samplers and information on the history of needlework, all presented in a very palatable manner for someone whose needle skills are fairly non-existent.

The mysteries are well done but even if a solution rings a bit false, I don’t care.  I’m too engaged in the lives of Angie, Charlotte, Sarah, et al to care.  Sadly, I have read the latest published one, Thread Herrings, in a desperate attempt to get steps on the treadmill since the cold and dark has driven me indoors, so I will have to wait until April for the next one to appear.  Of course, I can always start her first series, Antique Print Mysteries….

And while I prefer to read series in order, I think a reader could pick up any title and enjoy it.  This is also a good place to mention that I particularly admire Wait’s ability to obliquely refer back to previous important events (such as, oh, the last murder) in such a way that the book isn’t spoiled for those who haven’t read it and yet shows the ripple effect that the event had on the community.

Thank you, Lea Wait, for creating such a lovely place to visit. Also, for helping me to get the last 4-6,000 steps per day on that blasted treadmill.

Mainely Needlepoint Mystery Series

Twisted Threads
Threads of Evidence
Thread and Gone
Dangling by a Thread
Tightening the Threads
Thread the Halls
Thread Herrings
Thread on Arrival (April 2019)

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