Dressed to Drill

Fixer-Upper Mystery #10

By Kate Carlisle

ISBN 9780593201350


Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie


Contractor Shannon Hammer’s new project, renovating an old church, reveals some old sins when a body is found on the premises in the latest Fixer-Upper Mystery from the New York Times author Kate Carlisle.

While Shannon Hammer is thrilled to attend the premiere of the movie based on her boyfriend Mac’s latest book, she can’t wait to trade her killer heels for work boots and start her next renovation project in Lighthouse Cove: a quaint Victorian church that has seen better days. And will see them again—as a museum—if Shannon, her talented crew, and her sister Chloe have anything to say about it.

But on the first day of demolition, work comes to a screeching halt when they stumble on the body of a beautiful young woman in one of the chapels. Who killed the assistant art director? Suspects crawl out of the woodwork as fast as Shannon can restore it. The church is hiding a century of secrets from the days that smugglers wreaked havoc on the California coast. But it’s a more recent secret that someone killed to protect. Shannon and Mac will use every tool in their toolbox to nail down the truth before any more lives are sacrificed.


Almost every construction project Shannon Hammer and her crew become involved with is unique with its own beauty and challenges. The newest project sees them renovating Lighthouse Cove Church, built over one and one-half centuries ago. It is being repurposed to be the new Lighthouse Cove Art Museum. The structure is an incredible Victorian church with Gothic influences, and the descriptions brought to mind a class for which I walked around my hometown taking photos of churches with flying buttresses, rose windows, and similar influences of the era. The building itself was as fascinating to me as the mysteries!

Shannon and a few of her specialty crew members and foremen did a walk-through with Madeline, the new artistic director of the museum, to look at specific areas of concern or special needs. When they attempted to enter one of three tiny chapels, called the Blue Iris, something was blocking the door. When they finally discovered why it didn’t open, Shannon and those with her were horrified. Inside, lying dead, was Sarah, Madeline’s right-hand person who they assumed was running late.

This isn’t the first time a body has been discovered on one of Shannon’s construction sites. She was on a first name basis with Police Chief Eric Jensen long before her sister met him on one of her visits and began dating him. While he still doesn’t want her doing any investigating on her own, he trusts her instincts and will listen to what she says. In this case, before he arrived, she discovered Sarah had been murdered in the sacristy and dragged to the chapel, but she didn’t find what the killer used to move the young woman.

That evening, Shannon and her boyfriend, best selling author Mac Sullivan, discussed the murder and the church. Mac writes a series of thrillers and sometimes learns interesting things from the cases she is involved in. They did a question-and-answer session of sorts, discussing various people who know the victim and consider motives and other details to see if they can come up with a suspect list. I found it interesting, to see from different points of view how people might have motives that could make them suspects. When they are allowed back in the church, Mac wants to see the inside, as he is certain he can use features from the gorgeous old structure in a novel.

Purely by accident, as she didn’t even know it existed, Shannon found what Mac would consider the most interesting feature of the church. It was the kind of thing, especially considering what she found there, that was at once eerie and creepy, yet exhilarating! The author is adept at describing the church and the town setting, and used the church to its full advantage.

The author also has designed a group of characters that fit together well. Those who are only peripheral or short-term are defined as needed for their role in the mystery. The mainstays, such as Shannon, her family and friends, and her regular crew members are described well through realistic conversations and behaviors. I definitely enjoy the interactions with Mac and Shannon, and with Shannon and her sister Chloe. We have a new crew member this time that I look forward to seeing more of, as well as his dear family member in the area. Then there is Whitney. Every protagonist apparently has a nemesis, and Whitney reminds me of the one person in almost every workplace who annoys everyone or is determined to wreck someone’s reputation.

This, along with other mysteries in the series, are written with excellence. Plot twists grabbed and held this reader’s attention, including two huge surprises near the end. Events occurred that led me to think I knew who the killer really was, but then a different twist would point to someone else. When the second murder victim was discovered, I should have known for sure who the bad guy was, but still wasn’t quite convinced based on the actions of a couple other people. I was shocked and saddened at the motive for Sarah’s and the second person’s murder. I am very much looking forward to the next mystery in the series, and the project that they have already begun to discuss. I highly recommend this novel and series!