The Body in the Wardrobe
A Faith Fairchild Mystery #23
By Katherine Hall Page
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Daniele
Minster’s wife, caterer, and part-time sleuth Faith Fairchild pairs up with Sophie Maxwell, last seen in Body in the Birches and now a newlywed living in historic Savannah, Georgia, where Sophie crosses paths with murder. Another delightful entry in the beloved mystery series, complete with delectable recipes.
Attorney Sophie Maxwell has come to Savannah to be with her new husband, Will. But nothing throws cold water on a hot relationship faster than a dead body. Worse for Sophie, no one believes the body she knows she saw is real. Will is spending an awful lot of time in Atlanta on a case he claims is urgent, and she’s been tasked with house hunting for them with his former sweetheart, who Sophie can’t help but suspect wishes Sophie would return to her Yankee roots!
Fortunately, Sophie has a good friend in Faith Fairchild. With teenage Amy being bullied by mean girls and husband Tom contemplating a major life change that will affect all the Fairchilds, Faith is eager for distraction in the form of some sleuthing. In between discussions of newlywed agita, surprising Savannah customs and, of course, fabulous low country food, Faith and Sophie will pair up to unmask a killer! (Goodreads)
The Body in the Wardrobe is the twenty-third (yes! 23rd!) book in the long running Faith Fairchild mystery series. This installment takes us out of the usual settings of small town Massachusetts and coastal Maine to the hauntingly beautiful and historic Savannah, Georgia. Sophie, who has become a friend of Faith, has married the love of her life Will after a whirl wind courtship and moved to his home in Savannah. As a Yankee, Sophie is a fish out of water but enjoys getting to know her new family and adopted city. That is, until her spiteful step-sister-in-law Patty Sue tricks her into making a fool of herself at her big coming out party. Sophie is quickly left to fend for herself while Will, a private investigator, spends the majority of his weeks in Atlanta working on a case. She has her new job as a partner at her father-in-law’s law firm and house hunting to fill her time. One evening, she finds a body in her wardrobe and rushes out of the house and calls the authorities. However, when the police arrive to investigate, there is no body to be found. When her coworker at the firm dies and Will goes missing, Sophie calls on Faith to help her figure out what is going on in person.
The Faith Fairchild mysteries are among the first books that I read “back in the day” that were classified as cozies, and I loved them from the start. I have fond feelings for Faith, her parishioner husband Tom, their children, and all of the supporting characters that make up this charming New England series. However, in my opinion this installment is not among the best of the bunch. With so much attention focused on Sophie and her acclimations to married life in a new city, I feel that Faith and all of the things I look forward to when reading are missing. A great deal of the book feels like a gothic short story with family secrets, a mysterious location, and societal undercurrents that an outsider such as Sophie does not understand. The bits with Faith focus on the everyday occurrences of a minister’s wife and mother of two teens. Faith’s daughter has changed schools and is having trouble dealing with being away from her friends and with a bully, and Tom is contemplating a big move that will have big ramifications for Faith.
The two story lines do not necessarily go well together and thus, it felt uneven. As expected, Faith’s portions shine. However, some of her thinking and actions do not feel like her usual M.O. Sophie, on the other hand, comes across as a weak personality, almost like she is a throwback to another time, not a twenty-first century intelligent professional. Why couldn’t she just ask her husband Will the questions she wanted answers to? Why did she just sort of dismiss finding a body and its disappearance? Why did she need Faith to travel thousands of miles to help her? I know, it would not be much of a Faith Fairchild mystery without Faith. I feel like the plot as a whole has potential, but it is not fully developed and realized. Sophie’s “story” could have been really intense and compelling, but in the end it feels rushed and falls a bit flat.
Where Page excels here is the Savannah setting. The book reads like a love letter to the Southern city, and I loved it. I enjoyed traveling the city as Sophie learned her way around. I have visited the same restaurants and sites that Sophie mentions. That was fun and brought back memories of a great vacation.
The Body in the Wardrobe is an entertaining enough read, but I think some long time fans of the series may be disappointed. It can be read pretty easily as a standalone book, but please do not judge the whole series on this one installment.