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by Lea Wait
Kensington, November 2019
272 pages
ISBN: 1496716752

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Skye West returns to Aurora, her home in Haven Harbor to star in Harbor Heartbreak, a film based on a book written by local author Ruth Hopkins who is also a Mainely Needlepointer - one of the individuals who sews needlepoint pillows that Angie sells.

Set designer Flannery Sullivan retains Angie Curtis, Mainely Needlepoint owner, and Sarah Byrne, a Mainely Needlepointer and antiques dealer, to secure props for the two movie sets. Angie and Sarah observe the first run-through and witness just how demanding Marv Mason, the director is. Later that evening, Angie attends the lobster bake Skye is hosting to celebrate her son Patrick's birthday at Aurora. Patrick, an artist, owns a gallery in Haven Harbor and is Angie's boyfriend. Angie observes Marv put his arm around Cos, a young local girl who has been cast in the film. Toward the end of the party Angie sees Cos in serious discussion with Talia, a Hollywood actress with a part in the movie.

The next morning, Angie gets to the lighthouse around 8 AM where the day's shooting is scheduled. The first thing she sees is a technical crew struggling to place equipment on the ledges and rocks around the lighthouse, already slippery from the receding tide. Then Marv, wearing loafers and carrying a cup of coffee, climbs down the ledges, slips a couple of times, all while shouting at the crew to move the equipment. Gusting winds catch and shift the equipment and as the pieces fall, the boom sweeps Marv off the rocks and into the sea.

The police arrive quickly, and the Marine Patrol retrieves the body that is sent to the Augusta for cause of death determination. Based on witness reports, local policeman Pete Lambert thinks it an accident but Ethan Trask, state homicide detective is called as well. The medical examiner rules the death suspicious and a criminal investigation begins.

Lea Wait fabricates an interesting mystery around the question: Is Marv's death an accident or murder? Seems there is enough drugs and alcohol in Marv's system to have killed him without the fall. Suspects include his wife who showed up at the lighthouse just in time to see him plunge to his death. A heavy drinker, Marv seduces young actresses by promising impressive careers: Talia, years ago and Cos, the current target. Marv's volatile temper and demanding nature create tension with both crew and cast members. The full-blown criminal investigation includes a search of all crew and cast member quarters and discovers that a surprising number of individuals had prescription drugs for anxiety.

Wait's approach to writing this story is like watching her peel an onion as she uses Angie to collect information and observations, gradually reaching the heart of the issue. A seasoned wordsmith, the author develops relatable characters and maintains a steady pace. A little different, this 9th Mainely Needlepoint Mystery is an exceptional addition to the series.

§ Ruth Castleberry has worked as an investigator for Pinkerton’s, a city desk assistant on the Charlotte News, free-lance writer, marketing/business strategy consultant, competitive intelligence practitioner and digital marketing consultant.

Reviewed by Ruth Castleberry, November 2019

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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