The Body in the Boudoir by Katherine Hall Page is the twentieth in her Faith Fairchild caterer and reverend’s wife cozy mystery series (available May 1, 2012).
What do you want when you pick up a traditional mystery? I am sure the answers vary some from person to person, but for me some of the big selling points of this kind of story are a solid sense of place, a few offbeat characters, and—sorry, culinary cozy haters!—delectable treats. I’d never read Katherine Hall Page’s Faith Fairchild series, but it took only a few pages into The Body in the Boudoir, the latest in the series, for me to realize it would have all three.
This entire book is a flashback, and in it we get to see the meeting and (brief!) courtship between Faith and her husband, the Reverend Thomas Fairchild. While the other books in the series take place after their marriage in Thomas’s parish in Massachusetts, this one takes place mainly in New York.
New York City was not simply the city of her birth but the city she adored. She’d been to Paris, London, Madrid, Rome, even Boston—surely the groom had been to that city and how could he possibly prefer paltry Boston Common to Central Park’s acres? Yes, she’d enjoyed exploring all those other cities—she’d done Boston in a day—but whenever she stepped off the plane, or train, back home, she felt not a sense of relief but of excitement. She could never live anywhere else.
Well, I’ve lived in both Boston and New York. And while I don’t feel that way at all about New York, despite being born and bred here, I know plenty of people who do. In fact, I actually prefer Boston—strictly as a city without any other considerations like the family I have in New York that I’d miss should I move back there—but I still do completely understand the appeal of things like riding a carriage in Central Park.
“I’m sure you must do this all the time, but it’s something I’ve always associated with New York City and had to experience.”
Faith sat up. She’d heard a lot of things associated with the city: Broadway shows, skyscrapers, crime, egg creams, but never the horse and carriage. And why had she never succumbed before? The vehicle, with its echoes of a bygone, much slower city, was the perfect way to see the park.
Page’s descriptions of the town and people Faith encounters once she leaves New York are equally vivid. And then there’s the food. Faith is a caterer, of course, but it’s not just food she actually prepares that we get to hear about. It’s also food she imagines. When her friend has to go to a family funeral and Faith cannot go with her, she mourns:
Aside from being there for her friend, she was picturing the platters of fried chicken, country ham, bowls of macaroni and cheese, collard greens, potato salad, succotash, deviled eggs, and sweets—banana pudding, pies, layer cakes. The Southern way of death was infinitely better than the triangles of bread sandwiching a millimeter of fillings like anchovy paste and perhaps a thimbleful of sherry that characterized Northern obsequies.
Ummm…yum. Yeah. I read that on a plane and looked at the bag of chips sitting on the fold down tray in front of me with complete disdain.
But Faith’s life is not all carriage rides and tasty cakes. First she gets violently ill at her own bridal shower, then a brick falling from her uncle’s old home almost kills her, and finally her uncle’s devoted maid is murdered in her aunt’s boudoir. If Faith hopes to get married at her uncle’s fabulous Long Island mansion, or live to get married at all, she has to figure out what’s going on.
Atmosphere, characters, and—of course—foods of all types abound in this book and I will certainly be tasting a few of Page’s other books after this first foray into her work.
Laura K. Curtis lives in Westchester, NY, with her husband and 3 dogs who’ve taught her how easily love can co-exist with the desire to kill. She blogs at Women of Mystery and maintains an online store at TorchSongs GlassWorks. She can also be found on Twitter and poking her nose into all sorts of trouble in various spots around the web.
Read all posts by Laura K. Curtis on Criminal Element.