To Helvetica and Back
A Dangerous type Mystery, Book #1
By Paige Shelton
Author Website: www.paigeshelton.com
The New York Times bestselling author of the Farmers’ Market Mysteries and the Country Cooking School Mysteries introduces readers to Star City, Utah, and a little shop called the Rescued Word…
Star City is known for its slopes and its powder. But nestled in the valley of this ski resort town is a side street full of shops that specialize in the simple charms of earlier eras. One of those shops is the Rescued Word, where Chester Henry and his adult granddaughter Clare lovingly repair old typewriters and restore old books. Who ever thought their quaint store would hold the key to some modern-day trouble?
When a stranger to town demands they turn over an antique Underwood typewriter they’re repairing for a customer, Clare fears she may need to be rescued. A call to the police scares the man off, but later Clare finds his dead body in the back alley. What about a dusty old typewriter could possibly be worth killing for? (Goodreads)
From the unique title and cover art to the delightful protagonist Clare and her best friend, police officer Jodie, ‘To Helvetica and Back’ is a refreshing, imaginative start to a new cozy mystery series. Clare is the granddaughter of Chester, who has run ‘The Rescued Word’ typewriter repair and book restoration business for many years. She spent many happy hours there as a teen, learning how to repair typewriters, restore collectible books and use the printing press that Chester built. As an adult, she couldn’t imagine being anyplace other than Star City, Utah, living in the Blue Chalet, formerly owned by her grandparents, and working in the shop. It is impressive that she loves what she does so much that it doesn’t feel like working! Clare adores Baskerville, the sometimes cranky offspring of former long-term shop cat Arial. Most days the calico had a ‘tude that didn’t quit, but he proved loyal to those he loved.
Clare was brought a beautifully-kept manual typewriter to repair that the owner had purchased decades earlier and still used; it needed a minor repair. A very short time later, while the owner was in the back having coffee with Chester, a biker-looking guy came in, wanting to buy an old typewriter that didn’t plug in. Specifically, the one she had just carried in for the customer, and only that one. Clare’s niece, Marion, also worked in the shop and went in back to call 911. Minutes later when Clare’s best friend arrived, the man was long gone, but they found a camera he dropped.
The next morning Chester woke Clare up; she had fallen asleep at the shop while working late on the typewriter and a book repair. She tried to get the security cameras working again, turning on the computer and checking views on each camera. Clare had the misfortune to find the body first – the body of the biker, apparently murdered, behind the shop. Only a short distance from the back door they never used. Clare was asleep inside the shop when it probably occurred.
Clare is a delightful young woman that I enjoyed getting to know! I envied that she had a job she loved so much, and a close relationship with her grandfather. She was so well-defined, I felt as if she could step off the pages, due in part to the book being written in first person. Those who will probably be ‘regulars’, such as Chester and Jodie, were also more than adequately portrayed by their conversations and actions. Seth sounds every bit as adorable as described; especially his behavior when meeting, then taking out, Clare. There is an eclectic mix of townspeople, some of whom I hope to get to know better in future books. There are sufficient less-kind people to make an interesting mix of suspects.
This book was on my ‘wish list’ as soon as Amazon suggested it; I was not disappointed! Maybe my interest in this new series was piqued because I learned how to type on my father’s 1940’s era Royal portable. Or that I worked on both manual and early electric typewriters before that beautiful IBM Selectric was widely used, and I sometimes miss those days. It was fun to think there might be similar shops still around, probably taking in other work now also. Hearing Clare’s descriptions of typewriters led me online to see an actual pink manual typewriter! This author shows a respect for pieces of the past and the history of the area she writes regarding. Part of the appeal of any cozy mystery, to me, is the trade or profession that the protagonist is in to provide an interesting, vicarious new business experience with each novel.
The plot was intricate and exciting with many unique elements, such as the goats and silver. It was complex, with more than one mystery awaiting solutions, some of which the reader learns of only as they read more of the novel. There are so many potential bad guys, but identifying their motive was the real challenge. Clare and Jodie have clues, but clues to what? This reader found the mystery absolutely riveting with a completely satisfying end, even if I couldn’t figure out who the bad guy or gal was. Several people contributed to helping the clues be understood, including Seth and Marion; it was nice to see how each person’s opinion counted to the whole.
I highly recommend this exciting new mystery, ‘To Helvetica and Back’, to those who like well-crafted cozy mysteries, unique settings, and the first blush of a sweet romance. It can be enjoyed by teens and adults of any age.