Joyce and Jim Lavene
Berkley, Sep 2008, $6.99
Assistant Professor Jessie Morton has spent the school year teaching history and her summer moths apprenticing to an artisan at the Myrtle Beach Renaissance Village; this time she is tutored by basket maker Mary Shift. Each summer she has a romantic fling, but so far not with the bailiff Chase, who she is attracted to; she hopes this summer is their time together.
One day Jessie observes Mary arguing with a man who acts like he knows her intimately. Later she learns that a similar looking man is dead with one of Mary’s weaves tied tightly around his neck. The victim was her husband Joshua who tossed her out years ago; his brother Abraham came to inform Mary that Josh is coming and she needs to send him home or he will be an outcast like her. Abraham had taken Jah, Mary’s son into his home and pretended the lad was his son who actually died. He claims that Mary killed him instead of nursed him. The police suspect Mary killed her spouse, but Jessie thinks otherwise. Chase helps her investigate and they soon find an additional suspect besides Mary, Abraham, and Jah but no evidence pointing to anyone except Mary.
The Renaissance Faire mystery is the start of a new exciting amateur sleuth series from the Lavene team; known for their “poisoned” Peggy Lee Garden tales. Part of the fun of this solid whodunit is the vivid description of a the Renaissance Village; anyone who has not been to one will want to go as the Lavene duo makes it so enticing; in fact they make their South Carolina based Faire sound similar to the delightful Georgia Renaissance Festival. The protagonist is an interesting graduate student who feels comfortable in her endeavors when she classifies them into neat compartments; Chase refuses to be filed away as a summer fling as he wants more from her. The whodunit is cleverly developed so that four suspects linked to the basket weaver (Mary’s lover being the other) surface with motives while clues seemingly to only point to Jessie’s teacher.
William Kent Kreuger