Thursday, January 27, 2011

Shadows at the Spring Show by Lea Wait

"Mistress Mary, Quite Contrary." Print of the classic nursery rhyme,
drawn by children's illustrator Clara M. Burd for The Brimful Book, 1927.
9.5 x 12 inches. Price: $60.
(Each chapter opens with details of a particular print: a bit of history, information about the artist, when and where it was first published, and its current estimated value.)

I've had this book in my to-be-read pile for years now but for some reason I have not gotten around to reading it until yesterday. And now I'm writing a review. That must mean something.

The main character, Maggie Summer, is a 38-year-old, diet Pepsi guzzling American Studies professor at a New Jersey community college who is also an antique prints dealer in her all-too-rare free time. In Shadows at the Spring Show, the fourth book in the Antique Print Mystery series, Summer is organizing an antiques show for the benefit of a local adoption agency. Days before the opening, the director of the agency receives anonymous threats, an adoptive parent is shot right outside her home, and one of the children goes missing. Soon, Summer receives threats, too, and she decides that the best recourse is not to cancel but to tighten security.

The novel is not gripping suspense, but it's such a pleasant read that one can't willingly put it down. There are a lot of tricky issues in the story: interracial families, single-parent adoption, adoption in general, and biracial identity issues. Summer is not an ex-cop, a forensics expert nor a private investigator, but Wait reels you into her peaceful campus and takes you on an adventure with a college professor who seems to have a knack for getting herself tangled in exciting situations.

Personally, I prefer larger-than-life protagonists who are analytical, witty, aggressive and even cocky. Maggie Summer is NOT Dexter, but I do appreciate that my heart rate remained normal from cover to cover and that I won't be getting nightmares tonight.


gatheringbooks said...

I've never heard of this book. I love how reading challenges (whether we host them or not) are able to introduce you to certain books and writers. Its almost like Nancy Drew in terms of the protagonist lack of background in the crime fighting arena, but nonetheless talented in getting entangled in such situations.

Myra Garces-Bacsal from GatheringBooks said...

Aha! You got me at American Studies Professor. I suppose working in the academe makes me naturally gravitate towards protagonists who are in the same hellhole (or island of paradise depending on which day of the week you're at).

I am not familiar with this series. I was wondering if you've read the first and if there's a continuity to how the stories go.

Anyway, I enjoyed reading thru your review and yes, mighty intrigued as well. Thanks for joining our challenge!

mental wayfarer said...

Lea Wait, the author, was nominated for an Agatha Award for another book in the series, "Shadows on the Ivy". There's murder and blackmail and all kinds of evil stuff, but Wait has a way of writing about horrible topics in such a... pleasant way. It's okay if you don't read the books in order; each book is treated as a separate mystery. And all the developments in the protagonist's life happen all too slowly anyway.:)

dementedchris said...

This sounds like a relaxing kind of mystery. I'm often lured by mysteries where the protagonist is not a law enforcer and has a totally different profession; it's always entertaining to see how things develop. I'm going to put this author on my radar. Thanks for the review!