Down in Flames
A Webb’s Glass Shop Mystery #6
By Cheryl Hollon
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie
A highlight of Savannah’s new glass bead workshop is a technique called flame-working, which requires the careful wielding of acetylene torches. Understandably, safety is a top priority. But as Savannah is ensuring her students’ safety inside, a hit-and-run driver strikes down a pedestrian outside her shop.
The victim is Nicole Borawski, the bartender/manager at the Queen’s Head Pub, owned by Savannah’s boyfriend Edward. It quickly becomes clear that this was no random act of vehicular manslaughter. Now the glass shop owner is all fired up to get a bead on the driver–before someone else meets a dead end . . . (from Goodreads)
This is an exciting, enjoyable sixth offering in the Webb’s Glass Shop Mystery series; it can be read as a standalone yet might be better appreciated if reading in the series. The characters are well-defined and very likable. The setting in St. Petersburg, FL is beautiful and the mystery intriguing.
Savannah and her fiancé have discussed setting a wedding date, but events in this novel lead her to continue to put it off. Edward, however, wants the date set soon so his parents can come from England, and her friends suggest that life is too short to wait. After the unexpected death of her father about a year ago, Savannah inherited the glass shop he started. She moved back from Seattle where her career in glasswork, especially blown glass, was taking off. The shop is growing due to expanded workspace and the opening of a studio for glass workers to rent spaces by the month.
Jacob is a teen her father had hired as an apprentice. He is talented enough to excel and loves what he does. He has autism and is high-functioning; his eye for detail and routine give him excellent talents to work patiently with glass restoration and to now, as a journeyman, oversee the studio. He has the help of his service dog, Suzy.
After students attending the new glass beadmaking class at Webb’s leave, Jacob also leaves with Suzy. Savannah hears a sickening series of sounds, including a scream, a thump, and the squeal of tires. Running out, she sees Jacob stock still, unspeaking, then runs to the figure lying in the street. It is Nicole, the manager and bartender at Edward’s pub, with an obvious head injury and twisted limbs. Later that night Nicole died during surgery, leaving behind her wife of little more than a year, brothers, and parents she has been estranged from since announcing her intention to marry Elizabeth. Jacob is mute. He will probably regain his ability to speak but his memory of the accident, of which he is the only witness, may not return.
Savannah has consulted for the police department in the past when mysteries or murders have affiliation with the arts in various forms. As there is no immediate artistic connection for Nicole, it is a relief of sorts as she has too many things on her plate for this investigation. The mother of her office manager, Amanda, is in hospice care, so she arranges for Amanda spend as much time with her mom as possible. She must arrange for someone to oversee the studio until Jacob can return to work.
Everybody has secrets, and Nicole was no exception. Amanda shared information about Nicole that indicates there is a possible artistic involvement, so Savannah is authorized a few hours on the case. When cleaning out her employee locker at the pub, she and Edward discover more evidence of a connection with art, solidified by another family member.
The characters are better defined in every offering of the series! I like Savannah and admire her business acumen and how she cares for her employees. Amanda’s mother Viola is a dear lady; I appreciate the empathy and concern the author demonstrates towards Viola and Amanda while Viola is in hospice. Jacob is one of my favorites; despite his health challenges, he continues to pursue what he enjoys. We see him make mature choices to proceed towards his recovery after the accident. He is an integral member of the Webb’s Glass team.
The plot has twists and turns that keeps the reader actively engaged with the story. I found myself making a list of my suspects. Challenges – more than usual – are involved with solving this murder due to the police department moving to a new building. I am with Detective Parker – gotta love working from those hard-copy files, especially when over the course of the move, records disappear from the server. I actually did figure out who the bad guy was, but definitely not why. That, to me, was the true surprise. I was saddened overall by Nicole’s family, showing how sometimes our primary family is one of our choosing rather than by birth. Overall, I was satisfied with the novel and the end and highly recommend this, and the series, to cozy mystery and glass craft lovers.