The Old Maid's Puzzle
It seems as if nothing is going to liven up Faith Fairchild's deathly dull vacation on Maine's Sanpere Island until she buys a beautiful handmade quilt at an estate auction. Lovingly constructed by wealthy, deceased, and detested Matilda Prescott, Faith's purchase turns out to be quite a bargain indeed especially when she discovers it to be a map to the old woman's hidden treasure. But instead of pointing the transplanted New York caterer-turned-minister's wife toward the fabled Prescott gold, Matilda's artfully crafted clues lead Faith to a kelp-covered corpse floating in a nearby tidal pool. Once again, the resourceful amateur sleuth has become entangled in a dangerous puzzle, ensnared in twisted, lethal threads of familial greed and cold-blooded homicide. And Faith won't be satisfied until she has the whole murderous matter sewn up.
About the Author
Katherine Hall Page is the author of twenty-three previous Faith Fairchild mysteries, the first of which received the Agatha Award for best first mystery. The Body in the Snowdrift was honored with the Agatha Award for best novel of 2006. Page also won an Agatha for her short story “The Would-Be Widower.” The recipient of the Malice Domestic Award for Lifetime Achievement, she has been nominated for the Edgar, the Mary Higgins Clark, the Maine Literary, and the Macavity Awards. She lives in Massachusetts and Maine with her husband.
Read an Excerpt
Matilda Prescott was sitting up in bed piecing a quilt.
It was after midnight, but she wasn't sleepy. She never seemed to get really sleepy anymore and only tumbled in and out of fitful naps. Not what you'd call an honest-to-goodness night's sleep. Catnaps.
The cat, meanwhile, was snoring away at the foot of the pine four-poster that had been Matilda's grandmother's marriage bed. Matilda contemplated him with mingled affection and exasperation. Darn cat.
She put in the last stitches and cut the thread, then reached for a pencil from the nightstand. At the edge of the quilt top she lightly printed: "M.L.P." Matilda Louise Prescott. She'd always liked the way her name sounded. Solid. Then she added a few words. She'd embroider it in the morning.
The bedroom door opened a crack. Matilda glanced up brightly without surprise.
"Now what are you doing here at this hour? Oh, I know you're up and around. Don't think I don't know what's going on, but what do you have to come bothering me for? Just get out and leave me be. I'm sick to death of you. Sick to death of all of you."
The door closed. An hour later it noiselessly opened again. Matilda didn't look up. She thought she must be falling asleep, but this wasn't sleep. She needed some air. She gasped for breath. Too many covers. She seemed to be tangled up in the quilt, but when she tried to pull it off, it wouldn't budge.
Sick to death.
Faith Fairchild and her husband, Tom, were sitting on the porch of the smallMaine coastal farmhouse they had rented on Sanpere Island for the month of August. Tom was reading and Faith was doing nothing. The house was set high upon a granite ridge, and a broad meadow swept down to a cove. Across the water was a lobster pound, and Faith had grown accustomed to the putt-putt-putt of the lobster boats delivering their catch. When the wind was right, or wrong, they could smell the bait and fuel for the boats, a powerful combination; but somehow it seemed to go with the territory.
The farmhouse had long since been converted to summer occupancy and was filled with all the appropriate paraphernalia a rusticator might need: croquet and badminton sets, picnic gear, rain hats, sun hats, star charts, jigsaw puzzles, fishing poles, butterfly nets, board games, and bookcases crammed with slightly musty copies of Wodehouse, Jack London, Mary Roberts Rinehart, E. Phillips Oppenheim, plus all the paperbacks the family had ever acquired as well as those left behind by tenants and guests, everything from Jackie Collins to May Sarton. The adjacent barn hadn't seen a cow in more than fifty years, and it too was filled to the rafters with equipment for leisure-time activities: bikes, a Ping-Pong table, canoes, a kayak, gardening tools. Faith found it daunting even to look in there and unconsciously stood a little straighter whenever she entered the door. All this clean living plunges into the arctic water at dawn followed by cold showers, no doubt left her feeling vaguely uneasy. As if Teddy Roosevelt's ruddy, hearty ghost was spying on her from behind one of the archery targets. Her plan for August had been something less strenuous in the Hamptons.
Tom, however, was delighted. This was exactly the way he and his family had spent their summers, and the rest of the year, on Massachusetts's South Shore. When the weather had been too bad for messing about with boats, rafts, or anything else that would float and it had to be gale-force winds to discourage the little Fairchilds they had holed up inside the house to play Monopoly for hours. Faith's idea of a good time as a child had been to stroll over to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and play hide-and-seek in the Egyptian wing, followed by hot chocolate at Rumpelmayer's. She loathed all board games, and the only card games she knew how to play were go fish and poker.
Still, she liked the farmhouse and her native curiosity "dangerous curiosity" according to Tom had prompted her to snoop around trying to piece together a picture of the Thorpe family who owned it but no longer used it.
There was a photograph album in the attic that affirmed her conviction that their shoulders were broad, calves sturdy, and haircuts terrible. They also seemed to have a penchant for wearing each other's clothes, or maybe they just bought them in lots. In any case, most of the garments were tan, and to say that L. L. Bean would have been haute couture describes them sufficiently. Nevertheless Faith had grown fond of the family and given them names she thought they would like good Yankee names like Elizabeth, John, and Marian.
That Faith was here, five hours north of Boston, not two hours east of Manhattan, whiling away her time in this fashion, was due entirely to the blandishments of her neighbor and friend, Pix Miller, who had been coming to Sanpere since childhood. Pix painted such a vivid picture of deep-blue seas and murmuring pines that Faith agreed to try it. The fact that Pix also guaranteed a baby-sitter for two-year-old Benjamin Fairchild in the shape of her teenage daughter, Samantha, tipped the balance. At present Faith would have summered in Hoboken if someone had offered a baby-sitter along with it. They didn't call them "terrible twos" for nothing.
So, having made absolutely sure there was a bridge in good working order to the mainland, she packed her bug spray along with the Guerlain and prepared to "rough it." Pix was delighted. "You'll see. We'll have fun. There's always so much going on."
Staring at the absolutely calm water and flat horizon from the porch...
Table of Contents
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I read this once before in a hardbound book. It had recipes included, and when I bought the Nook version, it advertised recipes. There weren't any. I like the author and the story.
What am I, crazy??? To get involved in another series that has 22 books to date? But I've been meaning to reat this series for a long time. Now I'm started. (Although my libraries don't have book #1 in the series - so I'll have to go and find that one.) For this book, I truly enjoyed the story and "meeting" The Fairchilds and their friends. The setting was a great one, too. So I think that for me, the series is off to a great start. What fun ... now there's 21 more to go.
With pinhead who use this area to text each other. Are you so stupid you don't know y friendsaddrrss. Get off here and get a life.
"Mind if l "join?""
Ginger- start on me im doing holly. <br> Holly- she also stuck hee paw up hee p<_>ussay
I have not read it yet but i might like it cuz my name is faith n thats art of the title