Death on the Family Tree (Family Tree Mystery Series #1)by Patricia Sprinkle
With grown-up kids and a husband always on the road, Katharine Murray's nest would be empty if it weren't for her Aunt Lucy—until the elderly woman dies. Now Katharine's saddled with her Aunt's worldly belongings—mostly knickknacks destined for the dumpster. But there's a priceless Celtic necklace among the dross—and a diary written in German,
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With grown-up kids and a husband always on the road, Katharine Murray's nest would be empty if it weren't for her Aunt Lucy—until the elderly woman dies. Now Katharine's saddled with her Aunt's worldly belongings—mostly knickknacks destined for the dumpster. But there's a priceless Celtic necklace among the dross—and a diary written in German, neither of which Katharine's ever seen before.
Determined to find out where these objects came from, Katharine unwittingly discovers a branch of her family tree she never knew existed—namely Aunt Lucy's brother Carter, murdered more than fifty years ago after a mysterious trip to Austria. And when Lucy's artifacts are stolen, and the main suspect turns up dead, Katharine realizes she must solve a burglary and two unsolved homicides separated by a half-century . . . before more than her family secrets end up dead and buried.
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Death on the Family Tree
A Family Tree Mystery
Wednesday, June 7
Katharine Murray woke on her forty-sixth birthday and realized that nobody needed her.
She got the message slowly, not being at her best early in the day. She was halfway through brushing her teeth before she even remembered it was her birthday, which was surprising, considering how much she loved any cause for celebration. She spat, rinsed her mouth, smacked her lips to get full benefit from the peppermint flavor, then crooned, "Happy, happy birthday, baby," as she leaned closer to the mirror for the world's first glimpse of herself at forty-six.
She looked remarkably like she had at forty-five: same heart-shaped face with prominent cheekbones and a dusting of freckles, same long auburn hair in a practical blunt cut so she could wear it in several styles, same golden-brown eyes that Tom, her husband, used to call topaz back when he still said things like that. With one fingertip, she traced what she hoped people thought were smile lines around her mouth, not teeth-clenching lines from raising two children to adulthood.
"Same old same old," she murmured to her reflection and padded back to her bedroom.
She didn't bother to change out of the cotton knit shorts and T-shirt she slept in when she was alone in the house, just stumbled downstairs barefoot to fix birthday breakfast for one.
At the kitchen door she was stopped in her tracks by her first clear thought of the day: Why did I re-do this kitchen? I don't have a soul to cook for.
Tom left Atlanta each Monday morning to keep Washington lawmakersaware of the needs of his corporation's far-reaching empire, then returned each Friday night to spend the weekend playing golf, puttering at their lake house, or watching televised sports.
Their daughter, Susan, was happily climbing the lowest rungs of the New York Stock Exchange with visions of her own trader's jacket one day.
Their son, Jonathan, had tossed his Emory mortarboard into the air three weeks before and caught a plane to China to teach English for two years.
And with the deaths of her mother and two elderly aunts in the past eighteen months, Katharine's membership in the Bi-Delts—that vast sorority of Dutiful Daughters—had expired.
Aunt Lucy had died five days before, and with her death, Katharine was well and truly orphaned. Her parents had married late and produced only one child. They hadn't even had the foresight to provide her with cousins, which in the family-conscious South made her impoverished indeed. She had never felt family-poor in the years when she was creating a home in Buckhead (still Atlanta's most desirable neighborhood) for Tom and the children, meeting the increasing needs of her mother as she battled breast cancer and Aunts Sara Claire and Lucy as they became frail and sank gently to sleep. But now—She reached for the carton of orange juice and informed the refrigerator, "All the people in my life have gone away and left me like a useless piece of driftwood on the beach of life. Do you realize it is my birthday, and for the first time in my life, I don't have a soul to celebrate with?" As she turned for a glass, she added over one shoulder, "And don't you think it's pathetic that a woman has to have the first conversation of her birthday with a refrigerator?"
She tried a few bars of "Happy birthday to you" while she filled the glass, but it is not a song that sounds best when sung to oneself.
At the breakfast table she lifted her glass in a salute. "To us, kitchen. To the unneeded of the world."
If the room felt unneeded, it didn't show it. Its pale yellow walls were bright and cheerful, hung with blue-and-white plates she and Tom had been collecting for years from countries they visited. The plates echoed Delft tiles behind the stove and blue-and-white plaid cushions on the white chairs in the adjoining breakfast room. Katharine was particularly proud of the bay window they had added by the breakfast table. Sunlight spilled through it across African violets that sat like rich jewels on the deep sill, and ran in a broad stream across the white tile floor—a floor that was finally possible now that the children were grown and no longer tracking in red Georgia mud. Just looking at the kitchen lifted her spirits.
"It's not the end of the world to spend a birthday alone," she announced as she considered breakfast options. "Shall I make eggs Benedict, to prove I matter? No, I don't matter that much. An English muffin will do."
Until that moment, she had been clowning, for Katharine was not gloomy by nature. But then, as she turned toward the bread drawer, she caught sight of her reflection in one of the new glass-fronted upper cabinets and drew a startled breath. In that light, her face was a mere transparency through which she saw rows and rows of glasses. She had the dizzying sensation that she would spend the next thirty or forty years growing increasingly invisible until she disappeared.
Or had she already?
"Oh, God!" she cried, clutching the cold granite countertop and taking short, shallow breaths of terror. "What am I going to do with the rest of my life?"
It was a purely rhetorical prayer.
She never expected FedEx to answer.
The doorbell rang while she sat waiting for the muffin to pop up from the toaster and her tea water to boil, wondering which appliance would win the breakfast derby and whether her entire future would consist of such fascinating moments.
Two large boxes sat on the stone veranda and a FedEx man was heading down the walk to his truck. The Murrays' house was up a hill and far enough from the street that delivery trucks always came up the drive.
"Thank you," she called. The Birthday Angel had come through after all, providing a day scented with roses, a mockingbird cantata, and presents before breakfast.Death on the Family Tree
A Family Tree Mystery. Copyright © by Patricia Sprinkle. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Patricia Sprinkle grew up in North Carolina and Florida, graduated from Vassar College, and afterwards spent a year writing in the Scottish Highlands. She has been writing mysteries full time since 1988, and currently lives in Smyrna, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta. She and her husband have two grown sons. When she is not writing, Patricia is active in advocacy for abused, neglected, and deprived children.
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I loved this story because I love mysteries and I'm also a genealogist. Patricia writes a wonderful story about Katharine, who's just turned 46 years old. Her children are grown and her husband is pretty much absent from her life except for weekends and even then, he would prefer to be at work. Katharine pretty much celebrates her birthday alone. When her beloved Aunt Lucy dies, Katharine goes through her things and finds an old diary and an unusual necklace. Katharine also discovers that Lucy had a brother, Carter, whom she never mentioned to Katharine. When Katharine goes to the library to seek genealogy help, she comes across an old boyfriend (Hasty) who's now a professor. He would really like to take the diary home with him to study it, but Katharine refuses. She's know Hasty for years and knows how he likes to get something for nothing. This story is a wonderful read -- you will not be able to guess the ending. For anyone unfamiliar with genealogy, you will get an idea of how genealogy works. I would recommend this story to anyone who loves mysteries.
Patricia Sprinkle never fails to offer a wonderful read. This book is especially so. Don't miss it!
On her forty-sixth birthday, Katherine Morrow wakes up feeling alone and unwanted. Her husband works during the week in Washington DC and her children have grown up and left leaving her with nothing to do. She has a beautiful home in the Posh Atlantic superb of Buckhead but nobody to share it with. Her dull life suddenly gets more interesting when a box containing a necklace and a diary is delivered from the nursing home where her aunt recently died. --- She learns that her aunt had a brother that she never knew about who owned the two items she just received. He got them in Austria when he visited there in 1938. Katherine makes no secret about the items but someone obviously wants the diary because her home was broken into while she was there. The robber never saw her but he stole a collection of jade and the diary. Katherine feels lucky that she made copies of the diary but her house is broken into again and this time was totally destroyed. She believes thieves are looking for the necklace and the diary. Two people who knew about the objects were murdered and if Katherine isn¿t careful, she could be the next victim. --- Patricia Sprinkle who writes cozies that have no violence in them has started a new mystery series that is every bit as good as her Judge MacLaren Yarbrough and Sheila Travis series. The protagonist copes in one week with more traumatic incidents then most people do in a life time. She earns the admiration of the audience by her actions and the way she copes single handedly with events that are very frightening. The storyline is totally absorbing and the fast paced plot will keep readers turning the pages. --- Harriet Klausner
2 stars to Patricia Sprinkle's Death on the Family Tree, the first in the "Family Tree" mystery series. A warning before you read my review... it may contain a small amount of anger, and the book might be anti-gay. I'm still trying to decide... Story Katherine receives some old boxes of her pseudo-aunt's after the woman dies. Katherine's husband works out of town and their grown children have moved away, so she's quite bored and decided to dive into the mystery of what's in the boxes: an old piece of jewelry and a German diary. As she researches the family tree, she learns about a long-lost branch with a cousin who was murdered. By the end, several secrets surface while she gets to know another family in town known for being basically white supremacists. It all collides and she stumbles upon a wealth of history that changes all their futures. Strengths 1. It's simple drama. Lots of clues. Nothing adds up. No true murder mystery as there's no real dead body until 2/3 of the way thru. The mystery is about the items found in the old boxes and who was the missing relative. I liked this approach. Suggestions 1. Besides fixing what felt like some strong anti-gay themes... 2. It's disjointed. Great mystery but poorly executed. Not even her own family. Too many weird characters that she should mistrust. Certain people disappear and we never know why there were included to begin with. I had such high hopes for a genealogical mystery. Final Thoughts I'm not generally one to jump to conclusions, but 3 characters either make disparaging remarks about gay men, or fail to even try to defend them when someone says something that could be taken in an off-color manner. It was written in 2006, not long enough for this to be something of the norm. It takes place in the South, so I'll cut it some slack, but... the author could have been a little more considerate if she was not trying to promote a message about the "depravity of homosexuals." I can tolerate characters being that way, but when there's not a single sense of balance in the book, and it's a cozy mystery meant to be fun and light-hearted, I think I arrive at the conclusion I won't choose to read anymore by a careless author. Now, if I mistook anything, I apologize for being judgmental, but for anyone else who has read it, I'd love to know your opinion on whether this author failed to provide fair justice in her writing of opinions on gay people.
Wonderful read. Not at all what I was expecting. A book you definitly cant put down. The end will suprise you.