Part I of “Summer Reads 2019” focused on the antiques and collectibles cozy mysteries written by Barbara Allan (Barbara and Max Collins), Jane Cleland, and Victoria Hamilton published between the fall of 2018 and spring 2019. This column continues with a look at publications by Sherry Harris, Judy Sheluk, and Lea Wait, the Kindle Antiques and Collectibles Mysteries by Ellery Adams (J. B. Stanley) and Parker Riggs, and the subscription Antique Shop Mystery series from Country Sampler.
I discovered Sherry Harris’s A Sarah Winston Garage Sale Mystery series last fall. The publication of “Let’s Fake A Deal,” scheduled for release on July 30, 2019, is the seventh title in the series. The series is published by Kensington Books (www.kensingtonbooks.com). Although Sarah Winston, the principle character, conducts garage sales, she also assists private individuals liquidate collections and acts as a picker when out shopping for antiques and collectibles.
When discovering a new antiques and collectibles cozy mystery series, I prefer to start with the first title. Most cozy mysteries are chronological and filled with a host of secondary support characters. Each title focuses on expanding the background of one of the secondary characters. By the fifth or sixth title, the characters become a cohesive unit, a family in everything but blood. Each title can and does stand alone.
In the case of the Sarah Winston Garage Sale Mystery series, I began with the fifth book entitled “The Gun Also Rises,” published in January 2019. Sarah Winston, divorced from the ex-chief of police of Ellington, Massachusetts, and a former military officer who ended his military career at the nearby Finch Air Force Base, is asked to assist a wealthy widow dispose of a collection of mystery novels. Her attic search turns up a case of lost Hemingway manuscripts that were stolen in 1922 in Paris. The maid is killed when the collection is stolen again. When the League of Literary Treasure Hunters descends on Ellington, chaos prevails.
As with all cozy mysteries, Sarah receives support from a wealth of interesting yet somewhat strange secondary characters. Stella is her landlady. Her brother Luke has a shady past whose shadow continually impacts the present. Seth Anderson, the local district attorney, is the love interest, a complicated relationship because of Sarah’s less than positive interactions with the local constabulary. A mob boss is in the background of both Seth’s and Sarah’s lives. Rosaline and Angelo DiNapoli, owners of the local pizzeria, are Sarah’s confidants. The cast is completed with a number of male and female friends still working at the local Air Force base and who allow Sarah to utilize the base facilities.
Cozy mysteries often have multiple storylines. Jane Cleland’s Josie Prescott stories always include a minimum of two separate antiques or collectibles storylines. In “Let’s Fake A Deal,” released by Kensington Books on July 30, 2019 (I was sent an advanced reading copy), Winston agrees to conduct a garage sale of household contents, unaware that the majority of the merchandise was stolen, as well as assist a woman to sell part of her extensive feline collection so she can renovate the outside of her house to resemble a cat.
[Author’s Aside #1: Although I chose to resist the obvious “cat house” pun, Harris does not.]
Delighted with the two titles, I asked Kensington Books to send me review copies of other titles in the series. I enjoyed “A Good Day to Buy” (fourth title) and “I Know What You Bid Last Summer” (fifth title), the latter featuring a murder that took place prior to an athletic swap meet at the Ellington High School
[See https://sherryharrisauthor.com/ to learn more about the Sarah Winston Garage Sale Mystery series.]
Judy Penz Sheluk, editor of the “New England Antiques Journal,” is the author of “A Hole in One,” the latest title in the Glass Dolphin Mystery series. “A Hole in One” was published by Barking Rain Press in early 2018.
Arabelle Carpenter and Emily Garland, owners of Glass Dolphin Antiques located in Lount’s Landing, Ontario, Canada, are the principle characters in the series. In “A Hole in One,” the Glass Dolphin contributes a prize for a hole-in-one contest as part of a local golf charity event. Alas, the hole in one turns out to be in a person rather than on the green.
The cast of characters include friends, employees, rival antiques dealers, Emily’s ex-fiancé and the woman for whom he left Emily, an Elvis impersonator, and a retired antiques mall vendor. There are plenty of suspects with an ample supply of believable stories. FYSST (Face Yesterday, Save Someone Tomorrow), a mysterious cult, adds to the storyline.
Unlike “The Hanged Man’s Noose,” the first title in the Glass Dolphin Mystery series, antiques and collectibles play a secondary role in the storyline. Nonetheless, readers still will enjoy the insider look into antiques and collectibles trade practices mentioned in the book.
I first discovered Lea Wait when introduced to her Shadows Antique Print mystery series. I felt a sense of sadness and loss when I read the last title in the series. The heroine was married off, usually a series ender. Fortunately, Lea Wait refocused. Her Mainely Needlepoint Mystery series is set in Haven Harbor, Maine. The two latest books in the series are “Thread Herrings,” published by Kensington Books in late October 2018, and “Thread on Arrival,” published by Kensington Books in late April 2019.
Angie Curtis, who returned to Haven Harbor to live with her grandmother after serving as a private investigator in Arizona, inherits the family mansion when her grandmother marries a local minister. Angie, whose needlework skills were minimal when she arrived in Haven Harbor, also replaces her grandmother as the head and chief sales person for Mainely Needlework, a group of local needlework enthusiasts who make pieces sold at gift shops and on commission.
Angie’s friend and Mainely Needlepointers member Sarah Byrne owns a local antiques shop. Dave Percy, an expert in poison plants, Ruth Hopkins, Captain Ob and his wife Anna, and Angie’s grandmother comprise the rest of the Mainely Needlepointers. Patrick, artist and son of a movie star who owns a mansion in Haven Harbor, is Angie’s love interest. Central to each story is Angie’s growing interest in local history and one or more antique pieces of needlework that Mainley Needlepointers are either asked to restore, have acquired, or own.
“Thread Herrings” focuses on the back story of a tattered embroidery coat of arms that Angie buys at auction. When taking it out of the frame to check its condition, a hidden paper dated 1757 sets Angie on a quest to discover the origin of the piece, a story that someone does not want known and is willing to commit murder to keep quiet. Angie’s amateur sleuthing instincts rise to the occasion. The hunt for the killer is on.
“Thread on Arrival” focuses on the unexpected death of Ike Hamilton, a local character down on his luck. When Leo, a young man, becomes the prime suspect Dave Percy and Angie work together to clear Leo and find the murderer.
Like Jane Cleland’s Josie Prescott Mystery series titles, Lea Wait’s Mainely Needlepoint Mystery titles are chronological. In both cases, the chronological time between murders and titles is measured in months rather than years. Is this a Maine phenomenon? Cabot Cove also was located there.
[To learn more about Lea Wait, visit www.leawait.com.]
I was a big fan of J. B. Stanley’s antiques and collectibles cozy mystery series featuring Molly Appleby, a reporter for a trade periodical. Set in North Carolina, the stories were a welcome relief from the New England and Northwest settings of most antiques and collectibles cozies. When the last paperback title was published, I was disappointed.
Molly Appleby is alive and well. J. B. Stanley has returned as Ellery Adams. Ellery Adams and Parker Riggs continue to write Molly Appleby mysteries. They are available only as Kindle editions. I own a Kindle. I tried using it. I hated it. It is on my pile of useless electronic gadgets. “A Bidder End,” the seventh title in the Antiques and Collectibles Mystery series, was published in March 2019.
In previous “Read” columns, I previewed the first titles in the Antique Shop Mystery series, a subscription series published by Country Sampler. The series focuses on Maggie Watson, an owner of an antiques shop and colonial mansion in Maine. The hook is that each title is written by a different author. Rather than subscribe, I recommend buying the titles used. I found an Amazon listing for 13 titles for $40.00 plus shipping.
[For a full list of titles, see www.anniesfiction.com/home.php?program_id=ASM.].
I confess to holding two Christmas themed titles back. I am keeping my fingers crossed there will be a couple more new antiques and collectibles cozy mysteries published before late November so I can write a “2019 Winter Read” column in early December.
Harry L. Rinker welcomes questions from readers about collectibles, those mass-produced items from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Selected letters will be answered in this column. Harry cannot provide personal answers. Photos and other material submitted cannot be returned. Send your questions to: Rinker on Collectibles, 5955 Mill Point Court SE, Kentwood, MI 49512. You also can e-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Only e-mails containing a full name and mailing address will be considered.