Copyright © Harry Rinker, LLC 2016

2016 Winter Reads

When you are nestled by a roaring fire and crave a subtle distraction this winter from the antiques and collectibles hunt or are a spouse/partner looking for a stocking stuffer or two for the “better half” collector this holiday season, consider one of these cozy antiques and collectibles mystery titles. Antiques and/or collectibles are not always the center of attention as in the past. On occasion, there is no dead body. However, there is always a mystery or two and a guaranteed fun read.

Jane K. Cleland’s “Glow of Death,” the eleventh titles in A Josie Prescott Antiques Mystery series published by St. Martin’s Press, is set in the mythical town of Rocky Point, New Hampshire. There is no need to “round up the usual suspects.” They are all present—the staff at Prescott’s (Gretchen Eric, Fred, Sasha, and Hank), her neighbor Zoe Winterelli and her boyfriend Chief of Police Ellis Hunter, the Rocky Point police staff, and local reporter Wes Smith (a bit better dressed and just slightly less aggressive now that he is married). Hank, the Maine Coon cat, is held and petted far more frequently than Josie’s boyfriend Ty, conspicuous as always by his absence. The authenticity and disappearance of a Tiffany Wisteria lamp assumes the starring role. Appraising and researching the contents of two houses filled with antique and collectibles as well as an antique globe desk take the reader on welcomed tangents.

Cleland’s Josie Prescott Antiques Mystery series is the most insightful of all the antiques and collectibles cozy mystery series providing detail into how the antiques and collectibles trade operates. In fairness, Lea Wait’s “Shadows” and “A Mainely Needlepoint Mystery” series are close seconds. For information about Jane Cleland’s books, see www.janecleland.com.

By no so strange coincidence, a Tiffany Wisteria lamp also is the central object in Patricia Driscoll’s “Murder in a Different Light,” A Grace Tolliver Cape Cod Mystery published by the author. Grace Tolliver, a retired San Francisco Probation Officer, is the owner of Pearl’s Antique Lamps and Shades, located in a historic Cape Cod Village. The cast of characters is large, over 25, and includes the almost compulsory detective boyfriend. Once again, the Tiffany lamp goes missing. The murder mystery is the focus. The lamp provides the motif for the crime. Although antiques are in the background, I still enjoyed reading Driscoll’s work. For more information about Driscoll’s books, see www.patriciadriscoll.com.

Lea Wait is back with two titles: “Shadows on a Morning in Maine, an Antique Print Mystery published by Perseverance Press/John Daniel & Company, and “Dangling By a Thread,” A Mainely Needlepoint Mystery, published by Kensington Publishing Company. “Shadows on a Morning in Maine” is the eighth title in the “Shadows” series. The series follows the life of print dealer Maggie Summer and her boyfriend/fiancé Will, an antique tool dealer. Like Cleland’s and Driscoll’s novels, the setting is New England. It is no small coincidence that Wait lives in Maine.

Each chapter in a Lea Wait Shadows mystery begins with a description of a print whose theme relates to a mention or event in the chapter. The main focus of “Shadows on a Morning in Maine” is on harbor seals and the death of a young fisherman. Providing a portion of the story’s background is Maggie’s and Will’s renovation of a Victorian mansion as a home and antiques group shop. Maggie’s desire to adopt is another secondary storyline. There are fewer antiques and collectibles in this title than previous titles in the series, leaving the impression that the series storyline is drifting away from the cozy “antiques and collectibles” theme.

The primary focus of “Dangling by a Thread” is the murder of Jessie Lockhart, a hermit living on King’s Island, three miles offshore from Haven Harbor, and supporter of efforts to create a private sanctuary for the endangered Great Cormorants. Angie Curtis and the Mainely Needlepoint group become involved in efforts to save the Great Cormorants. Dave Percy, a member of the Mainely Needlepoint group who befriended Lockhart at a VA Hospital, moves front and center as a lead character in the story.

Angie, a former private investigator in Arizona, apparently learned enough to avoid romantic interests involving police officers. There is no cop boyfriend in this series. The role is filled by Patrick West, son of movie star June Skye, whose uncle is the one wishing to build a mansion on King’s Island.

In the past, antique textiles played a central role in the story but not in this title. Focus is on character development, environmental issues, and managing health issues. For more information about Lea’s titles, see www.leawait.com.

[Author’s Aside: The characters in cozy antiques and collectibles mystery series become family. Although each independent title stands alone, the characters evolve as series progress. Individuals who follow the series have character favorites. A title with their favorite character related to the background is not always greeted with enthusiasm. Because I read so many of the titles, I sometimes inadvertently shift characters from one story to another. I now do a character outline for each story so I can keep them straight.]

In the 2016 Summer Read column series, “Rinker on Collectibles” readers were introduced to Cate Price’s A Deadly Notions Mystery series by reviewing “A Dollhouse to Die For.” “Lie of the Needle,” published by the Berkley Publishing Group’s Berkley Prime Crime Series, is the Winter Read recommendation. The novel’s setting is Millbury, a fictional town located in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. The amateur sleuth is Daisy Buchanan, owner of Sometimes a Great Notion, an antique and sewing notion store. The men of Millbury have agreed to pose for a fundraising calendar to benefit the Millbury Historical Society. The death of the calendar photographer and one of the volunteer pinup models threatens to derail the project.

The attempt to discover the murderer includes trying to decipher the meaning of several old samplers and the discovery of a stop on the Underground Railroad. The past meets the present when Daisy attends a session of a modern needlework group. The story is set just before and after Thanksgiving. An occasional snow flurry adds to the wintry atmosphere. To learn about Cate Price’s A Deadly Notions Mystery series, see www.cateprice.com.

“Rinker on Collectibles” column #1540 introduced readers to Antique Shop Mysteries, edited by Shari Lohner and published by Country Sampler. The series is sold by subscription. Titles are not available individually, except in the secondary used book market. For more information, go to: https://www.antiqueshopmysteries.com/home.php.

The series is unique in that it has a central character, Maggie Watson, who resides in Somerset Harbor, Maine owns the Carriage House Antiques Shop and lives in the 19th century Colonial Revival Sedgwick Manor. Although each title in the series is written by a separate author, the writing style and editing makes the differences subtle rather evident.

Two of the first four titles have a winter theme -- “The Christmas Riddle” by Susan Sleeman, and “Pieces from the Past” by Elizabeth Penney. Like the first two titles in the series, the focus is solving the mystery and/or story behind an object and not necessarily a murder.

“The Christmas Riddle” traces Maggie Watson’s acquisition of a mercury glass vase inside of which is a cryptic note. The vase was the centerpiece of a previous resident’s elaborate Christmas parties. A box of missing jewels is discovered, vanishes, and is rescued in the end.

“Pieces from the Past” centers on an unfinished 1898 friendship quilt and attempts to save and restore an old lighthouse. The quilt’s backstory impacts the lives of several modern residents of Somerset Harbor. The friendship between Alderman James Bennet and Maggie continues to blossom, enhanced by the Valentine’s Day setting of the story.

This column reviews the latest titles by these authors. I strongly recommend reading previous books in one or more series, almost all still in print. If you missed the two 2016 Summer Reads series “Rinker on Collectibles” column, go to www.harryrinker.com, click on “Read Harry’s Recent ‘Rinker on Collectibles’ Columns., click on “ARCHIVED RINKER ON COLLECTIBLES COLUMNS,” and select columns #1450 and #1452.

Leave a copy of this column handy for your spouse/partner to read. There is no law against trying to influence what is in your Christmas stocking.

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 harrylrinker@aol.com. Only e-mails containing a full name and mailing address will be considered.

You can listen and participate in WHATCHA GOT?, Harry’s antiques and collectibles radio call-in show, on Sunday mornings between 8:00 AM and 10:00 AM Eastern Time.  If you cannot find it on a station in your area, WHATCHA GOT? streams live on the Internet at www.gcnlive.com.


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