Murder in a Cape Cottage
Cozy Capers Book Group Mystery #4
By Maddie Day
Author’s website: edithmaxwell.com
Brought to you by OBS reviewer Jeanie
ʼTis the day after Christmas, following a wicked-busy time of year for Mac’s bike shop. It’s just as well her Cozy Capers Book Group’s new pick is a nerve-soothing coloring book mystery, especially when she has last-minute wedding planning to do. But all pre-wedding jitters fade into the background when Mac and her fiancé, Tim, begin a cottage renovation project and open up a wall to find a skeleton—sitting on a stool, dressed in an old-fashioned bridal gown . . .
As Mac delves into the decades-old mystery with the help of librarian Flo and her book group, she discovers a story of star-crossed lovers and feuding families worthy of the bard himself. Yet this tale has a modern-day villain still lurking in Mac’s quaint seaside town, ready to make this a murderous New Year’s Eve.
What a great idea for a mystery! I enjoyed visiting Mac and her friends on Cape Cod between Christmas and New Year’s! The crime from the past was shocking, with a unique twist I haven’t seen before. Watching the police – and Mac and the members of her cozy mystery book club, the Cozy Capers – try to solve an extremely cold case was fascinating. Solving the present-day crimes seemed too easy by comparison. The characters are described very well, with conversations, behaviors, and attire reflecting their personalities. Westham, on Cape Cod, has a distinct charm and beauty in the winter.
Mac closed her beloved bicycle shop for three weeks, and her fiancé Tim did the same with his bakery. Their wedding is only days away, and with everything in good order, Tim wanted to start the demo to add a bathroom in their almost hundred-year-old cottage. Mac, no shrinking violet when it comes to getting her hands dirty, helped him until she found the last thing most people would want to find in between the walls of a building. It looked like the skeleton sitting on a chair inside the wall was wearing what was left of a wedding gown. A small suitcase with initials DLR was next to her. This woman had been firmly restrained. Maybe it was because Mac’s wedding was imminent that she felt a kinship with her, but she is determined to get justice for this bride. Preferably before her own wedding day.
When Mac went to get the final fitting on her wedding dress, she learned of the wave of burglaries among several businesses. It became a priority for Mac to make sure both her bike shop and Tim’s bakery get lights and security cameras behind their shops before their honeymoon, as the wily thief entered shops from the back doors without lights or cameras.
Mac and her friends in the Cozy Capers book club maintained an ongoing text thread for mysteries they looked into until resolved; this is not Mac’s first time to help solve a murder. The latest clues are added, and people chip in with comments, suggestions, or research ideas. What they find about this one is particularly chilling. The young woman is very real to Mac, especially when they learn her name, Della, the approximate date of her disappearance, 1940, and how her fiancé, Manny, went missing at the same time. It had been assumed that they eloped as they said they might. That plan was because Manny was a fisherman. Even though he owned a boat with his father, Della’s parents didn’t think he was good enough for their daughter, no matter how much they were in love or how Manny treated Della.
The cottage where Della was entombed had been part of an estate that was split years ago. Once they found out who the owning family was in 1940, they could search further. Descendants of the same family still live in the area. There were two families who were pillars of the village in the early 1900’s. Mac was able to talk with them, folks who did not want any hint of scandal around their families.
The characters have rich lives and backgrounds. Mac had spent two years in the Peace Corps, and several years working in finance in Boston before returning to Cape Cod. Her family, including the still-independent Abo (Grandmother) Reba from Cape Verde, is exceptionally close and loving. Each person is celebrated for who they are, not for whether they live up to anyone’s expectations. Tim’s family has faced challenges in recent years but are still close and loving despite living far from each other. Descendants of Della’s and Manny’s contemporaries still consider themselves to be quite important. Some continue to be wealthy; others have had unfortunate reversals.
The novel is fast-paced, with a lot packed into each of the five days before Tim and Mac’s wedding. There are several plot twists contributing to challenges of solving both the murder from the past and the burglaries and a murder attempt in the present. For my personal preference, the bad guys were almost evident too early. The murder itself makes a compelling tale. There is a good balance between finding the bad guys and finalizing the wedding preparations, making it an overall delightful read. I highly recommend it!