Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Fatal Fixer-Upper

Fatal Fixer-Upper
Author: Jennie Bentley
Berkley, 2008
336 pages

My recent adventures as a volunteer with Habitat for Humanity have me interested in all aspects of construction and home renovation. As I searched my shelf for a new read, this one popped out at me. Fatal Fixer-Upper is the first in a series known as the Do-It-Yourself Mysteries featuring amateur sleuth Avery Baker. You've just gotta love that title, especially if you watch as much DIY and HGTV as we do in our home.

Avery is a thirty-something interior designer who works in her boyfriend Philippe's furniture store in Manhattan. Philippe is a beret-wearing Frenchman with a roving eye and penchant for speaking in French language clichés. Avery gets an unexpected letter from a nonagenarian great aunt from Maine; she barely knows Aunt Inga and only vaguely remembers a childhood family trip to Maine. The intriguing letter requests for Avery to visit as soon as possible. But Avery arrives too late; Aunt Inga is dead, supposedly after falling down some stairs in her old Victorian home.

At first, Avery isn't very interested in sticking around the small Maine village any longer than she must. She thinks she'll just sell the house and go back to New York. But when she realizes that Philippe is having an affair with a young woman barely half his age, she decides to use the distance to her advantage and renovate the house. In the meantime, she meets some interesting (good and bad) locals, including the hunky handyman Derek; a friendly bed and breakfast owner; an unscrupulous cousin; and a very annoying real estate agent. She also learns that on the day Aunt Inga died, a local college professor disappeared.  And did I mention that someone doesn't want her around? A threatening letter and a couple of menacing break-ins rattle Avery's nerves.

Are these events related? This, of course, is yet another mystery, and soon Avery finds herself conducting her own investigation. Along the way she comes across an old legend that links the town to Marie Antoinette. The historical trivia adds a nice element to a story that just keeps getting more interesting with each page. Oh, and Philippe? Turns out he has a few mysteries of his own. You'll have to read to find out how it goes!

I liked the book and will probably read more of this series when I'm looking for an escape . . . or perhaps some home improvement tips and ideas. :-)