The New York Times
Shadows at the Spring Show (Antique Print Mystery Series #4)by Lea Wait
She's an antique print dealer, a college professor, and now...a parent? Maggie Summer is considering adopting a child from the New Jersey agency Our World, Our Children, and she has happily agreed to stage a benefit antiques show on their behalf. With her dealer friends, her college, and her lover, Will Brewer, all donating their time and support, everything is falling into place. But someone is harboring a vicious grudge against Our World, Our Children. The adoptive mother of thirteen children is the first victim, and then Maggie begins receiving threats. With the crowded benefit set to open and hundreds of innocent lives at stake, Maggie races to preserve the future with a clue hidden in her prints from the past....
The New York Times
"Wait renders the print business . . . intriguingly and with a sense of style." The Boston Globe
"Fresh and relevant." The New York Times
"Breezy. . . . Fun and compelling." Maine Sunday Telegram
"A perfect read." Mystery Scene
Read an Excerpt
Anatomy: Osteology. Plate I of Cranium. 1808 steel engraving showing skulls of different anthropological groups: Georgian; Turk; Negro; Calmuck (sic); Caribs. Engraved by B. Tanner and published by Abraham Rees in The Cyclopedia, or Universal Dictionary of Arts, Science and Literature, 1819-20. 8 x 11 inches. Price: $85.
The antiques show was dark and hot, jammed with people and oak furniture and tables covered with crystal and china. Maggie forced her way through the throng of customers and dealers. People pressed closer and closer. She could hardly breathe. And then there was light bright, glaring light piercing through the roof that was slowly crumbling on top of them.
Maggie emerged from beneath the mound of blankets pulled over her head. The clock radio next to her bed read 6:03 A.M. Her throat was dry. She was sweating.
If she allowed herself more sleep, she'd fall back into the nightmare. She pushed back the hair that had escaped her long braid and focused on her bedroom. Her heart was still pounding. But everything was as it should be: brass bed, yellow, sprigged wallpaper, framed, hand-colored Curtis engravings of flowers, reading chair. A single ray of sunlight was shining through the Victorian, pressed-glass perfume bottles on top of her mahogany bureau, making dancing patterns on the wall. Winslow Homer, her very much stay-at-home cat, was curled in his usual place at the foot of her bed.
She'd been spending too much time organizing the antiques show. That was obvious. The final meeting was at nine this morning.
She swung her legs over the side of the bed. A shower, and then a Diet Pepsi. There was no reason to worry. She'd planned well. Her subconscious must be working overtime.
"Thank you for being here on such a beautiful May Saturday and for volunteering to help with the first Our World Our Children Antiques Show. If it weren't for prospective parent and antique-print dealer Maggie Summer, who suggested this wonderful fund-raiser to support children waiting for families, we wouldn't be here today. Let's all give her a big round of applause."
OWOC Agency director Carole Drummond, trimly dressed in a gray pantsuit, led the clapping. Maggie, who wore a long, flowered challis skirt and soft green V-necked top, stood in the back of the room near the table where refreshments were set out. Hal Hanson, the twenty-year-old currently living with the Drummonds, handed her a cup of coffee, but she shook her head. She'd already caffeinated herself this morning. As he took the coffee back, she noticed his arms were mottled by old scars. Hal had a history of problems, she'd heard. Needle tracks? Self-mutilation? Whatever the marks were, they were healed. The problem was in the past.
Parents and prospective parents filled the room as Maggie wondered for the 453rd time why she'd suggested the agency sponsor an antiques show as a fund-raiser. Of course, then the board had asked her to run the show, and, of course, doing so had taken up most of her past five months. Never again would she complain that an antiques show promoter had not done his or her job well. In the twelve years she'd been an antique-print dealer she'd never appreciated how hard it was for a manager to pull a show together.
"We'll be opening just one week from today." Carole Drummond, a Korean-American in her late thirties, was tall, slim, and an advertisement for the joys of adoption. She'd arrived home to her adoptive parents when she was just four months old. By the time she was six months old she'd probably had those parents organized and scheduled and was changing her own diapers. Carole was the perfect director for a nonprofit organization. Somewhere along the line she'd also found time to include marriage and motherhood on her agenda. She had four children: two biological and two adopted, all between the ages of six and thirteen.
Plus now Hal lived with her. He'd been adopted ten years ago but lost his parents in a tragic fire last winter. How Carole found the time to see whatever hairdresser kept her sleek black hair in place, much less manage her agency and her family and work with social services organizations in Asia, Europe, and Latin America, was a mystery.
Carole was Maggie's new role model. Volunteering to run the antiques show had given her a chance to watch Carole in action.
"Thank you to everyone who's collected ads for the show program. I understand from Holly and Rob Sloane" Carole gestured toward a plump, smiling woman in her fifties and a taller, slimmer man with graying hair who were seated in the second row "that seventy-nine local businesses, services, and individuals have bought ads, and The Gentle Reader bookshop, Orchids and Others florist, and Gourmet Goodies have donated wonderful packages we can raffle off at the end of the show."
Holly and Rob had adopted eleven children of assorted heritages, in addition to the three they'd had biologically. Most of the additions to their family had arrived as troubled teenagers. Holly and Rob were poster parents for OWOC, a couple who could supply love, discipline, and a steady home base and support their sons and daughters through the stressful teen and young-adult years. They were the agency experts on troubled older children, the couple who led support groups for other parents. Somehow they'd found time to do a spectacular job for the antiques show, too.
Carole continued, "Thanks to Maggie's help, Somerset College is donating the use of its new Whitcomb Gymnasium."
How did people manage when they had children? Maggie had trouble balancing the demands of her antique-print business and her teaching career at the college. She'd hoped working on this show would help her decide whether adoption single-parent adoption, unless her personal situation changed was right for her. And while she was deciding, her efforts would be helping children who needed homes. It was a win/win situation. And she enjoyed working with the adoptive parents and agency personnel. They knew what they wanted to do with their lives and were doing it. Most had full- or part-time jobs, but they managed to put their families first. And put finding families for homeless children a close second.
It had been a good spring. She'd learned a lot about adoption, and a lot about herself.
But right now she was totally exhausted, months behind on matting prints for her business, and after this meeting she'd have to spend the weekend grading final papers and exams. Thank goodness they were final papers and exams.
It's a good thing I'm not a mother. Yet, Maggie thought. Tomorrow is Mother's Day, and I'll be reading freshman papers on the causes of the Civil War.
At least school would be over in a few days, and this show would be over next weekend. She'd reluctantly canceled out of exhibiting at two other antiques shows this spring, and her bank balance was missing those contributions. But despite those losses, she'd resisted signing on to teach the summer semester. She needed time for herself, her antique-print business, and for the man in her life.
Will. Wonderful, steady Will. He'd readily agreed to bring his eighteenth- and nineteenth-century fireplace and kitchen equipment from Buffalo to New Jersey for the antiques show. And it hadn't been hard to talk him into arriving two days early to help set up walls and tables for the booths, and stay a day after the show to ensure that everything in the gym was in order before she officially declared the show over.
And a success, Maggie thought to herself. After all this work, it had to be a success. Although if the show was a success, then the agency would want it to be an annual event. That was just too much to think about today. But she was keeping notes on everything, just in case. Notes she could hand off to whoever ran a future show. Running an antiques show was a onetime deal so far as she was concerned.
"I'm going to ask Maggie to let us know who is doing what, and when, so we'll all be up-to-date."
Maggie rose and smiled, notebook in hand. This was the easy part. Most parents of OWOC children and prospective parents had volunteered to help, and Carole had divided them into committees months ago. If only coordinating the participation of college officials and dealers had been as easy.
"I'll add my thanks to Carole's for all the work Holly and Rob have done. After I finish going over the names of the committee chairpersons and their responsibilities, the committees can meet and check to make sure all hours are covered. Later this week I'll be meeting with students and administrators from Somerset College who've volunteered to help during the show, so if any group needs more bodies, let me know so we can fill any gaps in coverage." Maggie pushed a strand of wavy brown hair off her face and opened the black binder she'd been carrying for months.
"Publicity is chaired by Skip Hendricks. They've already sent out press releases and arranged for ads, and will be calling local media this week. They'll be the ones putting up signs reminding people of the show and heading dealers and customers to the gym. They'll also be hosting any visits from members of the press." Skip and his wife, Jennifer, were the brand-new parents of Christina, a beautiful six-month-old from Guatemala. Christina would no doubt be at the show to accept the admiration of her adoring public. And parents.
"Ann Shepard is heading up the café, where customers and dealers can buy light lunches and baked goods. She has a long list of people who've volunteered to make food, but she also needs people to sell and keep the café set up and the tables clean throughout the show. Ann, could you have a couple of people here late Friday afternoon to help while the dealers are setting up? We'll have coffee and soft drinks for them, and Pizza On The Go has donated food."
Ann nodded and wrote herself a note. She was an attractive blonde, forty-two-year-old prospective single parent who was a manager at the Somerset Savings Bank. She'd been baking and freezing desserts for the café since February. Maggie knew that aside from making sure there was enough sugar and cholesterol for everyone at the show, Ann desperately wanted to adopt a healthy white girl under the age of four. For a single parent that was even more of a challenge than for a couple. Ann was making sure everyone at OWOC knew what a wonderful mother she would be. Maybe she hoped the more she did for the agency, the higher she'd be on their waiting list.
"We're looking for a few more porters to help dealers bring their antiques into the gym on Friday, and be here again Sunday afternoon after the show to move furniture and boxes to their vans. If any of your teenagers would like to help, that would be a great way they could contribute. And the dealers will pay them, so they can make a few extra dollars, too. Most dealers will tip ten to twenty dollars for loading or unloading a van.
"Sam and Josie Thomas are in charge of admissions." Maggie gestured toward a middle-aged black couple. Josie was obviously expecting a classic example of a mother who'd adopted and then been surprised by a pregnancy. Ethan and Michael, the eight-year-old twins the Thomases had adopted last year, were seated between their parents, exchanging light punches. "Sam and Josie will also have someone at the raffle table to encourage people to buy tickets.
"In addition to helping as porters, some of your children have volunteered to help out at the café, and to take messages from the show management booth to the dealers. Be sure to thank them all. We appreciate their help." Maggie had just about finished. "And, of course, Carole and her staff will be at the OWOC booth throughout the show to answer questions, display pictures of children who need homes, and possibly recruit some new prospective parents. Or encourage extra donations!" Maggie smiled at Carole, who raised her hand in acknowledgment.
They'd been able to get enough items donated so the biggest show expenses were padding the floor and providing tables for the dealers which their booth rent covered and advertising. If all worked as hoped, the admission fee of $7 per person would go directly to OWOC, as would the money taken in at the café, and a portion of the booth rents.
"If there are any questions during the week, I'll be available, and so will Carole. We're looking forward to a great show and you're the ones who're going to make it happen!" Along with the thirty-six dealers Maggie had managed to talk into exhibiting in this small, first-time show. And all the customers they hoped would walk through the doors of Whitcomb Gymnasium May 14 and 15.
Carole stood up and announced, "Hal has refreshments in the back of the room. Please enjoy a snack while you're meeting with your committee."
As the volunteers scattered, Carole turned to Maggie. "Is there anything that still needs to be done?"
Maggie glanced at her notebook. "I'm meeting with the school building staff on Monday, and Tuesday I have a meeting with Al Stivali, head of the Somerset College security staff, to confirm he can provide extra coverage for the gym Friday and Saturday nights, when the antiques will be there. We should have at least one person there all night."
Holly Sloane joined them. "Everything sounds wonderful, Maggie. You've done a great job pulling this together."
"Thanks. And I appreciate everything you and Rob have done to help. I don't know how you find the time, with all those kids to keep track of."
"When you have as many as we do, you have to either be very organized or very lax. We're organized," said Holly. "Teenagers and young adults have constant issues, but at least parenting them is less physically demanding than if we had fourteen kids under the age of ten!"
"Holly, if anyone could manage a family like that, it would be you and Rob."
Holly smiled and shook her head, her brown, slightly askew curls bouncing. "Lots of families manage beautifully with a lot of younger children. Rob and I didn't start out being experts on teenagers. But at this point we can certainly say we've had experience. Although none of that matters when a kid isn't responding."
Maggie had met most of Holly's children at adoptive-parent meetings and parties, but not enough times to keep them straight. Certainly not often enough to know who might be having problems, or why. Carole knew them better.
Carole lowered her voice. "Jackson again?"
Holly nodded. "Do you know another counselor we could call? We've tried everyone we thought might be able to reach him."
"Is he acting out? Violent?"
"Nothing like that, thank goodness. It's just that even after five years he's twenty-two now he still hasn't totally bonded with the family, or accepted who he is."
"He's twenty-two?" Maggie blurted. "Then why isn't he out on his own?"
Holly turned to Maggie. "You're still a prospective parent, so don't let this discourage you. But children adopted at older ages have a lot of issues. When they're in their teens, or even older, before they find people to trust, it takes a long time for that trust to become a part of them. Adopted kids will be children longer than other children. Most of them can't take responsibility for themselves before they've had positive role models to show them how to do that. Jackson came to us when legally he could have been out on his own, or in supervised housing. But emotionally he was a lot younger than seventeen, and he wanted a family. We agreed he could stay with us, and we adopted him. He graduated from high school and now he's taking some courses at Somerset College. But he hasn't really figured out where his place is in the world."
"It's wonderful that you and Rob don't pressure him, Holly," said Carole, frowning with concern. "But he does need to pull his life together pretty soon or you'll have him at home for the rest of his life."
"He knows that's not an option," said Holly. "And he is trying. I think a counselor who's an expert in cultural differences might help."
Maggie looked blank. "Is Jackson from another country?"
"No; he's all-American. But his mother was white and his father was black. He's still not comfortable with that, or now, with having white adoptive parents."
"In your family I'd think he'd find plenty of role models!"
"Some of our other kids have had those problems, too, of course. But most of them have accepted who they are. Some issues will last their lifetimes. Being biracial can influence who they marry and where they live and how they bring up their own children. But Jackson is far from ready to do those things. He needs to accept who he is, and what happened to him in the past, before he can make a future for himself."
Carole nodded in agreement. "I'll check with a few of my contacts to see if we can find a counselor."
"Thank you." Holly turned toward where her husband was talking with their committee and then looked back and touched Maggie's arm. "Maggie, you've chosen a great agency to work with, and Carole is one of the reasons. Postadoption support services are limited at lots of agencies." Holly walked back into the room.
"Don't let it scare you, Maggie. But some of our families need help for years," Carole said with a smile. "And we try to provide it. Adoption is a lifelong journey. Parents and children need to know they're not alone, even years after an adoption is finalized."
"That's one of the reasons I contacted OWOC," said Maggie. "I've read a lot about adoption of older children. I know if I decide to adopt, I'll need all the help I can get." And the more she learned, the more she wondered if she was ready to adopt.
"I think you'd make a great parent, Maggie. Just let me know when you're ready to start your home study and we'll do everything we can to help you." Carole headed Maggie into the hall, out of hearing distance of anyone else. "In the meantime we have an immediate issue. I didn't want to say anything in front of Holly, but that meeting with security you're having Tuesday might be more important than we'd thought. We got an anonymous hate letter yesterday. Someone is threatening to sabotage the show."
Copyright © 2005 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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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This is the 2nd Antique Print Mystery that I read and it did not disappoint. Lea Wait fills her books with believable characters, a good knowledge of antiques and a great plot.
I've loved all of Lea Wait's books, but this one -- a little edgier, a little more suspenseful, with an antique show background that was a little different -- is now my favorite. Wait manages to bring a lot of information on a contemporary subject -- in Shadows at the Spring Show the subject in inter-racial adoption -- into perspective by framing it in antique prints and a great mystery. I couldn't put this one down. Can hardly wait for the next in this great series!
Thirty-eight years old American History Professor and antiques print dealer Maggie Summers arranges for Somerset College to host an antiques show to obtain funds for Our World Our Children, an adoption agency that helps kids while they wait for parents. Maggie is thinking of adopting though her significant other feels strongly that he would not be a good father. With the event a week away, OWOC director Carole Drummond informs Maggie that they have received hate mail that threatens the show. Carole, who along with her husband has adopted biracial children, explains there are people who object to OWOC¿s policy of placing children in a good home regardless of race or religion; some people object to destroying the heritage of the adoptee, preferring kids not be adopted. When active member Holly Sloane, who has adopted eleven, hard to place teens, is shot, Carole believes the show must go on and Maggie concludes she must stop a zealot by discovering who he is and exposing this dangerous fanatic.--- SHADOWS AT THE SPRING SHOW provides a wonderful amateur sleuth tale, but the heart of Maggie¿s fourth investigation is the inside looks at adoptions especially of hard to place children. Interestingly some ¿purists¿ would rather see a child have no nurturing adult outside of an institution in order to keep the purity of the heritage, which is more critical than the well being of a youngster. The story line is well written with Maggie at her best, but the tale belongs to the caring support characters like Carole and Holly who put their money, time and love into action not hypocritical words.--- Harriet Klausner