Tue
Nov 29 2016 1:00pm

Review: Glow of Death by Jane K. Cleland

Glow of Death by Jane K. Cleland is the 11th Josie Prescott Antiques Mystery (Available November 29, 2016).

It’s the Fourth of July in New Hampshire’s picturesque seacoast town of Rocky Point, but the patriotic celebration is outshadowed by real-life fireworks when murder trumps merriment in Jane K. Cleland’s 11th Josie Prescott Antiques Mystery, Glow of Death

What started as a promising business venture—the appraisal of a rare Tiffany lamp expected to fetch as much as $1.5 million at auction—ends in mystery when Josie is called to the scene of the crime and asked to identify the victim: Ava Towson, the lamp’s co-owner. But when Josie gets a look at the body, she realizes that she doesn’t recognize the face staring back at her. It soon becomes clear that persons unknown impersonated Ava and her wealthy business mogul husband, Edwin, in the hopes of perpetuating a fraud. Having been bamboozled, Josie—always an ambassador of justice—vows to discover the truth.

Operating a rare antiques dealership (and serving as the host of a reality TV series based on said dealership) provides a solid backstory for an amateur sleuth, and Josie is no stranger to the dastardly deeds that often result from greed. Fortunately, she’s surrounded by a motley group of employees (and a feline friend or two) who bring laughter and levity, and occasional suspicion, to the proverbial table. So, too, the antiques themselves—one primary item and two secondary (here, marbles and a writing desk) per book—which Cleland, who herself formerly owned an antiques and rare book business, describes in delectable detail:

The lamp’s base was bronze, filled with lead. The materials showed an age-appropriate patina, the kin of wear and shine that comes from 110 years of use. The turn-paddle off-on knob and General Electric-made socket were as expected. The maker’s stamp was accurate. When the shade was gently tapped, the glass rattled, suggesting that the solder that held the glass in place had dried out over time, another indicator that the lamp was authentic. When illuminated, the shade glowed. The intricacy of the pattern and the luminescence of the translucent lavender and purple blossoms took my breath away.

As Josie attempts to uncover the origins of the hoax, she learns that the Towson’s marriage may also have been a carefully constructed façade; indeed, rumors of abuse, infidelity, and other spousal grievances abound in the aftermath of Ava’s death. Further complicating matters is Josie’s ongoing balancing act between assisting Rocky Point’s Police Chief, Ellis Hunter (who also happens to be her best friend/landlord/neighbor’s significant other), with his investigations while also serving as an anonymous source to intrepid local journalist, Wes Smith, who often uncovers information that the police can’t. But the discovery of a second body only hastens her resolve to get answers, despite risk of reprisal—and of alienating her allies by playing to both sides.  

It’s not all doom and gloom, though, as Cleland has carefully crafted a cozy backdrop for her protagonist to inhabit. Not only is Rocky Point itself idyllic (despite the ever-growing body count), but Josie’s personal and professional homes are fitting of her old-soul personality and allow her to interact with beloved series regulars, whether they be her longtime boyfriend Ty, her bestie Zoë, or the staff, patrons, and pets of Prescott’s Antiques. It’s often the familiarity of people and places as much as a story’s crimes and calamities that appeal most to returning readers, and Josie herself is not impervious to the many charms of her daily existence:

I loved my office. I loved my company. I loved Rocky Point. I loved my life. I was in the place where I belonged.

With Glow of Death, Jane K. Cleland has woven an intricate mystery with antiques lore, heartily delivering on the pure entertainment and painless education that her fans have come to expect. In a world where age and artifice take precedent, she has once again proven that good storytelling is timeless.

 

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John Valeri wrote the popular Hartford Books Examiner column for Examiner.com from 2009 – 2016. He can be found online at www.johnbvaleri.com and is featured in the Halloween-themed anthology Tricks and Treats, now available from Books & Boos Press.

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