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Shadows at the Fair (Antique Print Mystery Series #1)
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Shadows at the Fair (Antique Print Mystery Series #1)

4.6 12
by Lea Wait

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  • Local antiques dealer, dead in a one-car accident on his way home from an antiques exposition in Columbus, Ohio
  • Two Scranton, Pennsylvania, antiques dealers dead of smoke inhalation
  • Massachusetts antiques dealer dead of substance abuse at an auction in Sharon, Connecticut
  • Antiques dealer dies in his booth at the Westchester (New


  • Local antiques dealer, dead in a one-car accident on his way home from an antiques exposition in Columbus, Ohio
  • Two Scranton, Pennsylvania, antiques dealers dead of smoke inhalation
  • Massachusetts antiques dealer dead of substance abuse at an auction in Sharon, Connecticut
  • Antiques dealer dies in his booth at the Westchester (New York) Antiques Show

Ignorance is truly bliss for recently widowed Maggie Summer, owner of Shadows Antiques, when she arrives at the prestigious Rensselaer County Spring Antiques Fair. Sadly, she won't remain ignorant of the suspiciously high mortality rate among her fellow antiques dealers for long.
Rumors are everywhere. The most recent victim, John Smithson, died of poison at a show just last week, and many of the same dealers are here at Rensselaer. They make the identical circuit year after year, so they know each other well. Or do they?
Murder is still far from Maggie's mind as she arranges her Shadows booth: some Currier&Ives prints here, Winslow Homer wood engravings on the hack wall, other prints arranged on tables and easels by category. With eleven years' experience, she knows her stock. So far the worst thing that has happened was putting the wrong price tag on a Homer engraving and having to sell it for $170 instead of $1,700.
Maggie doesn't intend for that to happen again, and she doesn't intend to worry about murder. This show's security is tight. But she can't help observing her colleagues with fresh eyes. Some, Eke Gussie White in the booth next door, are dear friends, and Gussie's assistant, her twenty-year-old nephew, Ben, who has Down's syndrome, is a delightful new acquaintance. Others, however, even people she's known for years, suddenly seem suspect.
The opening night wine has hardly stopped flowing when death claims another victim. Maggie will still sell a few antique prints, but she'll spend most of her time looking for a killer and trying to save a vulnerable young friend. Will Maggie herself become a potential victim? The answer may be in one of Maggie's prints, but she has hundreds in her booth. Where should she begin?
With its riveting behind-the-scenes glimpse of antiques shows and its revealing data on antique-print values, Shadows at the Fair introduces a captivating new series that unveils the powerful mysteries of antique prints even as it entertains.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Homicide and antiques combine smoothly in this well-crafted mystery, the first in a new series, from fourth-generation antiques dealer and children's historical novelist Wait (Stopping to Home). Since several antiques dealers have died lately under suspicious circumstances, the police are especially vigilant at the Rensselaer County (N.Y.) Spring Antiques Fair. Despite their precautions, recently widowed Maggie Summer, an antique prints dealer who calls her business "Shadows," has just set up her booth when she learns a fellow dealer has died after a scuffle. The police soon accuse Ben, the 20-year-old nephew of Maggie's disabled friend, Gussie White, who has an adjoining booth, but Ben has Down's syndrome and is unable to clear himself of the murder charge. A second death puts all the dealers under suspicion. Because the fair lasts only three days, Maggie and new acquaintance Will Brewer, a dealer in fireplace tools who has his charms ("Kindly women might have called him a teddy bear, complete with beard and slight beer belly"), must act quickly to help the police solve the murders before her colleagues (and the killer?) disperse. Full of fascinating information about antiques and antiques fairs (each chapter head includes a catalogue-like description of an antique print), plus helpful maps and careful directions for finding one's place in the crime scene, this solid debut will appeal to cozy fans who appreciate a realistic background. (July 23) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Maggie Summer, a recent widow, sells antique prints at antique shows. She attends the Rensselaer County show with some trepidation because a serial killer seems to have targeted the dealers. Sure enough, someone murders one of her friends, and police suspect the Down's Syndrome- afflicted assistant of another friend. Asked for help, Maggie begins sleuthing. Her discreet search for clues accompanies a similarly low-key dissemination of information about old prints and other antiques. Fans of John Dunning's mysteries about the rare book world (e.g., Booked To Die) may also enjoy this solid, middle-of-the-road start to a new series. Wait is a fourth-generation antiques dealer and has sold antique prints for over 25 years. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Maggie Summer returns to the antique-show circuit after an especially rough winter. After her husband died unexpectedly over Christmas, Maggie missed the January fair, and nothing less than a death in the family-and the dearth of print dealers-would have convinced Vince Thompson, shrewd manager of four East Coast expositions, to reserve her booth for the Rensselaer County Spring Antiques Fair. Maggie arrives to find azaleas in bloom and cops checking badges. Several antique dealers have died recently, the last poisoned, and Thompson wants to make sure this fair goes off without incident. Naturally, his hope is proved vain when one of Maggie's old acquaintances, Harry Findley, is bludgeoned to death on opening night. Ben, the young nephew of Maggie's good friend Gussie White, witnessed a suspicious confrontation between the victim and someone else, but it's Ben himself who's arrested, mostly because he has Down's syndrome. To help her young friend, Maggie investigates by indulging in the dealers' customary pastime of gossip. In fact, she hits the mother lode with Harry and Susan, his beautiful wife, who seemed to have had a remarkably close marriage while he was alive, but have now spawned rumors of imminent divorce. Is she really taking his death as hard as mild-mannered book-dealer Joe Cousins? Susan drinks herbal tea, takes lots of pills, tries to find comfort with lecherous Vince, and waits for the next poisoning. Maggie is pleasantly cozy, though her first case is about as thrilling as an episode of Antiques Roadshow.
From the Publisher
The New York Times Book Review A polished first mystery...with a good deal of charm.

The New York Times Book Review Cannily draws on its author's professional experiences in the antiques trade... The fairground setting beckons like a weekend in the country...

Product Details

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Antique Print Mystery Series , #1
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Snap-the-Whip, wood engraving by noted American artist Winslow Homer (1836-1910). The most famous of Homer's wood engravings, published by Harper's Weekly, September 20, 1873. Double page. Country boys playing a game outside their schoolhouse, with mountains beyond. Notable because it was the basis for two later Homer oil paintings also called Snap-the-Whip, often pointed to as most representative of Homer's accurate depiction of nineteenth-century American life. Price: $1,700.

"Booth number and admittance card?"

The man looking through Maggie's van window was a far cry from the student in faded jeans and Grateful Dead T-shirt whom Vince usually hired to check in vans at the dealer entrance to the Rensselaer County Spring Antiques Fair. This man was a cop.

"Booth two twenty-three."

He looked down at his clipboard. "Name?"

"Maggie Summer. Security seems a bit heavy this year." A brass nameplate was pinned on his chest. The chest's name was Taggart.

"Yes, ma'am. After that incident at the antiques show in Westchester last week, we wanted to make sure there were no problems here. Admittance card?"

Maggie reached into her worn red Metropolitan Museum canvas bag and pulled out a gray card tucked among rolls of masking tape, business cards, two small hammers, a portable telephone, and the latest Toni Morrison book. "What incident?"

"Dealer murdered. Poisoned. It was in all the local papers."

"I'm from New Jersey. I hadn't heard." Maggie swallowed hard. Was it someone she knew? A poisoning at an antiques show? Bizarre. "Has anyone been arrested?"

"Not that I know of. Westchester police are investigating."

"Why the concern here?"

"Just insurance. A lot of the same dealers who were in Westchester last week are here today. Don't want the public to be worried." He looked at her. "Or the dealers. Nothing for you to be nervous about. We've doubled security. Only authorized people are allowed in." He looked down at the paper she'd handed him. "Maggie Summer...Shadows Antiques. Do you have a picture ID?"

"They don't require photo licenses in New Jersey."

He waited.

"If I'd been heading for an airport, I'd have brought my passport. What about an employer ID with a picture?" She searched through her bag again. The ID was at the bottom. As she pulled it out, coins, tissues, and pencils fell onto the floor. A truck behind her beeped. "Just a minute!"

He looked at the photo, then at her, and grinned. "You've colored your hair. Looks good."

She smiled and reached for the card. Maggie's long, dark brown hair was her one vanity. She tucked back a strand that had escaped her braid.

"Decided to go back to school when your kids left home, Ms. Summer?"

"No kids. I teach at Somerset County College."

"That must be why it says 'faculty' on the card."

A droll fellow, Officer Taggart. The truck in back of her was beeping steadily now.

"Here's your entrance permit." He taped a green label printed SPRING SHOW -- DEALER just above the inspection sticker on the inside of her windshield. "Park over in the south field. As soon as you've finished unpacking, move your van to the back of the lot so other dealers can unload. You staying on the grounds tonight?"

"No. Living it up at Kosy Kabins." They weren't so cozy and they weren't exactly cabins, but the motel was just across the street and had indoor plumbing.

"Okay, then. Your vehicle must be off-premises by ten tonight, after the preview, and you may not reenter the fairgrounds until eight A.M."

Maggie nodded. Same routine as always. With one difference this spring -- a dealer had been murdered at a show ninety miles down the road in Westchester last week. She put her faded blue van in gear and felt a surge of anticipation as she passed the brilliant pink and red azaleas separating the driveway from the exhibit buildings on her left and the fairground track on her right. It was spring, she loved this show, she was about to see some of her favorite people, and she might even make some money. Many people who lived in New York City, two and a half hours south, had second homes in this area or made it their weekend getaway spot. Their purchases alone made the show worthwhile.

She'd done it for eleven years; so far the worst thing that had happened had been putting the wrong price tag on a wood engraving of Winslow Homer's Snap-the-Whip, the most famous of his wood engravings, and having to sell it for $170 instead of $1,700. She still winced at the memory. It was good to be back. And if strengthening security meant more Officer Taggarts, then she had no complaints. This was her time for some spring sunshine and fun. She didn't intend to worry about anything.

Not even murder.

Copyright © 2002 by Eleanor S. Wait

Meet the Author

Lea Wait made her mystery debut with Shadows at the Fair, which was nominated for an Agatha Award for Best First Novel. Shadows on the Ivy, the third novel in her acclaimed series featuring Maggie Summer, is forthcoming in hardcover from Scribner. Lea comes from a long line of antiques dealers, and has owned an antique print business for more than twenty-five years. The single adoptive mother of four Asian girls who are now grown, she lives in Edgecomb, Maine. In addition to the Antique Print mysteries, Lea Wait writes historical fiction for young readers. Her first children's book, Stopping to Home, was named a Notable Book for Children in 2001 by Smithsonian magazine.
Visit her website at www.leawait.com.

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Shadows at the Fair (Antique Print Mystery Series #1) 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A great book; I really enjoyed it. I want to read the others, but book 2 isn't available as a nook book. It jumps to 3 and 4. Aggravating. Would like to see book 2 published as an ebook.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read Shadows at the Fair after hearing it had been nominated for an Agatha for Best Frist Mystery ... and am glad I did! I'm an antique dealer, and Wait has totally captured the atmosphere and characters of the antique world ... plus adding the excitement of secrets and murders, and a villain I didn't guess until the very last moment. Definitely recommended!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Loved it! The characters were very different and authentic-sounding, and I couldn't guess 'who dun it!' Definitely recommended!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Lea Wait, who lives in Maine, is a 4th generation antique print dealer. Her expertise is shared by Maggie Summers, her heroine in 'Shadows At the Fair.' In fact, Maggie's knowledge is important to solving the mystery of why six antique dealers have recently been murdered--and why two more of her fellow dealers at the Renssalaer County Antique Fair are suddenly found dead. Maggie finds out that many people have motives for wishing these two dead. Everyone is a suspect. Someone is arrested, but she doesn't believe this is the murderer. The mystery is solved because of Maggie's knowledge, her intelligence and her determination to stop the murders. Lea Wait has a gift for characterization and subtle humor. We hope this will be the first in a long series of 'Shadows' mysteries. Her next 'Shadows' mystery will be 'Shadows on the Coast of Maine.' Wait is also the author of Young Adult historical novels.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was the 1st Antique Print Mystery I read. I really liked the characters and the good plot and enjoyed learning a little about the antique business. Glad that there will be more books in this series.
omalane More than 1 year ago
It kept my interest. A bit wordy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Maggie Summer is a totally believable protagonist ... I really believed in her. And all the other antique dealers have fascinating histories and stories. I liked that Maggie's friend, Gussie, is in a wheelchair but was a major help in solving the crime ... and I didn't guess 'who dun it' until the very last minute. Brava! Can hardly wait to read Shadows on the Coast of Maine and the rest of the series!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Maggie Summer, newly widowed and getting back to work as an antique print dealer, is drawn into this mystery when her young friend Ben, who has Down Syndrome, is accused of killing an antique dealer Maggie knows. The world of antique dealers and antique shows and customers is shown in fascinating details -- I really want to go to a show now! Maggie is a spunky and logical protagonist who defends Ben, may have found love -- and definitely finds the killer -- whose identity I didn't guess until the end! A fast and fun read. Can hardly wait to read the next in the series!
harstan More than 1 year ago
It has been a long hard winter for Maggie Summer. Her husband died of a heart attack at the same time she learned he was having an affair with another woman. Now she is trying to get her life back on track by entering the Rensselaer County Springs Antiques Fair. She sells antique prints and knows many of the other dealers since she has been doing the shows for years.

When she arrives on the fairgrounds she learns that a dealer was poisoned at an antique fair a week ago. Security is so beefed up that all the dealers feel safe until somebody kills Harry Findley. At first the police arrest Ben, a man with Down¿s Syndrome. Maggie, who has known Ben for a long time, is convinced he didn¿t do it; the police become convinced as well when Harry¿s wife Susan dies under mysterious circumstances while they retained Ben. Maggie, being a curious sort, decides to do some sleuthing and almost gets killed in the process.

This is the first entry into what looks to be an intriguing series. The heroine is a likable person who has a natural talent for snooping and is not the kind of person who stands idly by when an injustice is about to occur though she starts her sleuthing after the police know Ben is innocent. Lea Wait takes readers into the world of antiquities and makes it seem so interesting that readers will want to visit their local antiques store or fair.

Harriet Klausner