The Body in the Casket
Faith Fairchild Mystery #24
By Katherine Hall Page
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Daniele
The inimitable Faith Fairchild returns in a chilling New England whodunit, inspired by the best Agatha Christie mysteries and with hints of the timeless board game Clue
For most of her adult life, resourceful caterer Faith Fairchild has called the sleepy Massachusetts village of Aleford home. While the native New Yorker has come to know the region well, she isn’t familiar with Havencrest, a privileged enclave, until the owner of Rowan House, a secluded sprawling Arts & Crafts mansion, calls her about catering a weekend house party.
Producer/director of a string of hit musicals, Max Dane—a Broadway legend—is throwing a lavish party to celebrate his seventieth birthday. At the house as they discuss the event, Faith’s client makes a startling confession. “I didn’t hire you for your cooking skills, fine as they may be; but for your sleuthing ability. You see, one of the guests wants to kill me.”
Faith’s only clue is an ominous birthday gift the man received the week before—an empty casket sent anonymously containing a 20-year-old Playbill from Max’s last, and only failed, production—Heaven Or Hell. Consequently, Max has drawn his guest list for the party from the cast and crew. As the guests begin to arrive one by one, and an ice storm brews overhead, Faith must keep one eye on the menu and the other on her host to prevent his birthday bash from becoming his final curtain. (Goodreads)
With twenty-four books and counting in this long running series, I feel like Faith Fairchild has become a friend. The well executed puzzles and all the talk of food usually make me enjoy my time spent with her and her family and friends, but The Body in the Casket is perhaps the weakest entry in the series.
Faith finds herself hired for both her cooking and investigative skills by legendary Broadway producer and director Max Dane. He has planned a weekend party to celebrate his seventieth birthday, and all of the invited guests were involved in his last musical, a total flop, twenty years ago. To add to the intrigue, Max received an early birthday present – an empty casket – so he is confident someone from his past is out to get him. It is up to Faith to keep everyone fed and keep Max safe during icy weekend festivities.
The premise of The Body in the Casket is a good one, a throwback to traditional locked room mysteries, but the execution is lacking. There is a great deal of time spent leading up to the party with no death until very late in the story (there is a death early on that is glossed over). And then the book rushes to its conclusion. Even with all of the ruminating about the party guests, I still do not feel like I got to know them well nor am I satisfied with their motives or the explanation (or lack thereof) for the failure of the musical. There are several subplots introduced that feel like filler, and I kept waiting for them all to tie together in some way to make a cohesive story, but they did not. In fact, most of them are left open ended, perhaps to be explored in future books.
Overall, I am quite disappointed in The Body in the Casket and can only hope that future installments are back up to the high standard of the earlier books. I tentatively recommended for longtime fans of the Faith Fairchild series.