Something was very wrong on Sanpere this summer . . .
To escape the misery of a sweltering August in Aleford, Massachusetts, caterer and minister's wife Faith Fairchild and her family head for their cottage on Maine's peaceful Sanpere Island in Penobscot Bay. But things have changed since their last visit. An aggressive developer is moving forward on plans that will destroy the unique ambience of the island, infuriating residents. Tensions are running dangerously high, and soon murder rears its hideous head. Faith discovers a corpse while exploring the grounds of Sanpere's historic lighthouse. With fear running rampant and volatile emotions approaching the detonation point, the intrepid sleuth must track down a killer for the sake of a friend and the island she loves.
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The Body in the LighthouseA Faith Fairchild Mystery
By Katherine Hall Page
William MorrowISBN: 038097844X
Chapter OneSawdust and nails covered the floor. A piece of plywood had been set on two sawhorses as a makeshift counter. It bowed slightly under the weight of an ancient microwave, power tools, containers of coffee, and doughnut boxes. Mold was floating in the congealed cream on the cup Faith Sibley Fairchild had picked up, intending to heave it at her husband, Tom, who was smiling sheepishly at her from the doorway - a doorway Faith had thought was supposed to be the site for a fireplace. She put the cup down, grabbed a desiccated doughnut from the hand of her seven-year-old son, Benjamin, snatched an iridescent beef jerky stick from the lips of her three-year-old daughter, Amy, and spoke in a carefully measured tone. A very carefully measured tone. Each word enunciated. Each word weighing several tons.
"Sweetheart, I thought you told me that the house was almost finished. It doesn't look almost finished to me."
She had been driving for five hours from the Fairchilds' home, the parsonage in Aleford, Massachusetts, to their summer cottage on Sanpere Island, off the coast of Maine. Five hours in a car with two children well below the age of reason or ability to retain liquids; children who required not only frequent pit stops but constant stimulation in the form of Raffi tapes. Ben, a curious soul, also needed to pepper his mother with questions, answerable and unanswerable: "Why is it called the Maine Turnpike -' cause it's in the state or 'cause it's main?" and "Why are they always working on it every time we drive to Sanpere?" Faith had often thought of offering her services as a consultant to the Massachusetts Department of Correction. Locking miscreants up in cells displayed a certain lack of imagination when it came to sentencing. Most parents could reel off dozens of alternatives, with no possibilities for recidivism.
"Honey," Tom said, "I know how it looks, but, believe me, it really is close to the end. We've got the punch list. Mostly, what you're seeing just means painting, a little cleanup, and a few trips to the dump." In contrast to his wife's words, Tom's rushed out in a torrent, and he tested the waters by moving a few steps closer to her. Clutching a child firmly at each side, she was standing as rigid as Niobe after the gods got to her.
She held up her hand, and Tom stopped in his tracks.
"There are no cabinets, as far as I can see," she said, starting to tick off items with one finger, "nor counters, except for that." Pointer went down as her gaze swept over the plywood, virtually igniting it. "I see you have apparently decided on a different location for the fireplace." Another finger joined the others. "And ..."
Before she made a fist, Tom strode over and put his arms around his family.
"Okay, okay. It's not as far along as we'd hoped, but I was sure you'd want to be here, want to be a part of it, make decisions - and besides, I missed you guys."
Tom, the Reverend Thomas Fairchild of Aleford's First Parish Church, had been making the long commute to Maine whenever he could steal some time. The Fairchilds' cottage, a simple one-story square built before Amy was born and Ben reliably ambulatory, had been in desperate need of remodeling. From the beginning, the project had been dear to Tom's heart, and he'd spent the previous two weeks away from his family, nail gun in hand, having a ball. Caterer Faith had obligations and was, truth to be told, just as happy to avoid the mess. Yet she had missed Tom, too. She looked into his deep brown eyes. He had sawdust in his hair and was wearing a carpenter's apron from Barton's Lumberyard jauntily tied low on his waist, a badge of honor. She scrutinized his shirt to make sure it was well tucked into his jeans - front and back. That other badge of honor, revealed when a workman bent to his task, and known locally as "The Sanpere Smile," was safely out of sight.
"It will be wonderful when it's done," she admitted, returning his hug and looking through the three large plate-glass windows at "the view." People in Maine prized their views, or, if they didn't have much of a one, drove or hiked to one. The Fairchilds' view would have been "Worth a Journey" in any Michelin guide. The tide was still coming in and the late-afternoon sun had turned the water's surface to gold. A heron was perched on a granite ledge in the cove. The tip of a long sandy beach, one of few on the island, curved to an end at their property. Sea lavender, grasses, and bay-berry grew in abundance above the high-tide mark, giving way to a small meadow surrounded by tall pines and slender birches. A few sailboats dotted the expanse of water that extended as far as the eye could see - Swans Island and Isle au Haut distant on the horizon, large rounded shapes like slumbering beasts.
"Come on, let me show you the rest. You're going to love it!" Tom enthused. "And don't worry about dinner. I've got everything under control." His relief was palpable - and contagious. Faith doubted the dinner part, but, after the initial shock, she could see that the room was going to work, and she began to feel happy. They'd gutted the original house, leaving the tent ceiling with its Adirondack-like bead board intact. She noted that under the debris, the hardwood pine floor had been installed. This one large room, with all its windows bringing the outdoors in, would serve as kitchen and living room area. There was an island divider in place, waiting for the drop- in stove, and their refrigerator had been enclosed in its new location.
Excerpted from The Body in the Lighthouse by Katherine Hall Page
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