Absence of Mallets

Fixer-Upper Mystery, Book #9

By Kate Carlisle

ISBN 9780593201336

Author Website: katecarlisle(.)com

Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie


Contractor Shannon Hammer steels her nerve to pin down a killer in the latest Fixer-Upper Mystery from the New York Times bestselling author of Premeditated Mortar

Shannon could not be happier that her hunky thriller-writing boyfriend, Mac, has moved in, and it is a good thing they are living together because they are both busier than ever. Mac is hosting writing retreats at his now vacant lighthouse mansion, while Shannon and her crew build Homefront, a quaint Victorian village of tiny homes for veterans in need. Mac’s latest guests are proving to be a handful though, and Shannon has heard some grumbling from the luminaries of Lighthouse Cove about her latest passion project. But nothing can throw a wrench in their plans except a malicious murder.

When one of Shannon’s new friends is found brutally bludgeoned with a mallet near the lighthouse on Mac’s property, the couple hammers out a suspect list and searches for a motive. As they drill deeper for clues, more violence strikes and a new victim winds up in a coma. The pressure is on, and Shannon and Mac will have to move fast to find an unhinged killer dead set on demolishing anyone who gets in their way. (Goodreads)


I always look forward to reading a new mystery in this series, as I think it is great that women are more accepted in construction now than ever. Shannon now oversees the company that her father started many years ago, and business is excellent. Shannon’s father taught her and her sister how to use tools and how to build or repair things when they were growing up. It is fascinating to see the results of their father’s mentorship as we catch an inside glimpse of life as a successful contractor and as the star of a home improvement show. Regarding Shannon’s boyfriend, Mac, it is equally interesting to see the life of a bestselling author.

Shannon’s biggest ongoing project is called Homefront, where a community center and half of the fifty tiny houses for veterans to live in are underway. The community center includes various services for the veterans. Shannon is giving a construction class to women veterans, and one of their projects will be doing much of the work on a tiny house. She is happily surprised when her sister, Chloe, could leave her Hollywood set to spend a couple weeks in Lighthouse Cove with her family and her fiancé, even sitting in on a class and helping on the site.

Mac is working on the next thriller in his book series about a former Navy SEAL. He had purchased the property on which a historic mansion and a decommissioned lighthouse sits. The mansion has been remodeled, and Shannon’s crew will soon begin to shore up and refurbish the gorgeous old lighthouse. Mac hosts writers’ retreat groups at the mansion. This time he has a group of six, all of whom are long term friends. They can take advantage of a quiet time, appreciate the ocean and beach, and write. Mac will invite them into a writing class he is leading for the veterans at Homefront.

One of the women Shannon meets at the veteran’s village is Linda, an artist who designs incredible mosaics. She is not a resident at Homefront, but as a veteran, will take a couple classes. Shannon and Linda became friends almost instantly. Shannon even offers her a job doing mosaics on some of the kitchen backsplashes. There is also a friendship budding between Linda and Travis, one of the veterans who works for Shannon. One of the writers is also attracted to Linda, coming to the site when least expected to talk with her.

Linda is found dead at the beach not far from the writers’ retreat. It is believed she was attacked with one of her own mallets that is missing from her tools. Whoever did it is framing Travis for the murder. Just because he is a veteran with PTSD, some people believe he is capable of murder, but he is devastated by her death. Shannon had been sure she and Linda would be lifelong friends from the short time they knew each other, and is grieving her loss. Shannon won’t rest until finding who killed Linda.

The primary characters are easy to be invested in, as are some of the secondary characters. I enjoyed getting to know Shannon’s sister Chloe better. I loved meeting some of the veterans at Homefront, and seeing the dignity afforded to them. Each person is defined according to their roles. I admit, it was hard to read the story at times since I liked and had hoped to see more of the victim.

The author has hit a home run with Homefront, which Shannon calls a refuge for heroes. Seeing how well planned and uniquely designed Homefront is, and the services currently available at the community center, the author has an excellent vision for how our veterans need to be treated. In this case, the setting is as important as the mystery!

Shannon, Mac, Chloe, and their friends will go to any length to get justice for Linda and get Travis off the hook, especially when Shannon barely avoids serious injury from the sabotage of work in place. It has been very finely plotted and executed, with twists and turns that continue to change the possible suspect list. There were some unexpected results in the excellent resolution to the novel. I highly recommend this, and any of the other stories in the series!