Shadows of a Down East Summer: An Antique Print Mystery
by Lea Wait
Review by Mel Jacob
Perseverance Press Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781564744975
Date: 01 April 2011 List Price $14.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Maggie Summers, an art print dealer and community college professor, looks forward to a summer in Maine with Will, her boyfriend, but she didn't expect murder, theft, and a mystery from 1890 to interfere. When Will's ninety-year old aunt is attacked and her house ransacked, things become personal.
Lea Wait's fifth Shadows novel, Shadows of a Down East Summer, follows Maggie as she struggles to solve the puzzles facing her. Carolyn Chase, daughter of artist Helen Chase, asks Maggie's help in research related to her family's history. She mentions a trunk of family papers and gives Maggie an old journal to read from 1890. However, the next day, Carolyn is murdered.
When Maggie and Will visit an auction preview, she spots some Maine pictures by Helen Chase. Carolyn said her mother had never parted with any of her Maine work. The auction listing doesn't mention Helen and the auctioneer has no information on the seller.
Will's aunt tells Maggie to destroy the journal, but she believes it might contain valuable information about the descendents of Winslow Homer so she refuses. She keeps the journal with her because she fears someone will steal it. As she reads it, the young woman's story fascinates her. The wife of Winslow Thompson, a local artist, claims her husband's grandfather was Winslow Homer, but has nothing to substantiate the claim. She demands to see the journal.
After returning from a rainy outdoor sale, Will and Maggie find his aunt unconscious and restrained by duct tape. The bedrooms have been searched and the house left in a mess. An old family photo album appears missing. The album had some pictures of Helen Chase and her mother, but mainly family and friends of the aunt.
The police find no clues to Carolyn's death, and Maggie fears she might be next. She suspects someone might kill for the journal, but whom and why remain the questions.
The journal entries provide a story within a story although some might quarrel a bit with the events affecting both young women at the same time in similar ways. The journal, the object of the crimes, provides a more interesting story than the attacks.
The mystery will satisfy most readers, but isn't one of those with an 'edge of the seat' ending. Maggie seems too much in control at all times. Wait has written four other Shadows mysteries and was nominated for an Agatha. She also writes books for children and young adults.