FATAL FIXER-UPPER, by Jennie Bentley, 2008, Berkeley Prime Crime, New York, 332 pages, paperback, $6.99.
For years, Eastport author Sarah Graves has been at the forefront of a mystery genre with her “Home Repair is Homicide” series.
Now there’s a new contender in the do-it-yourself home renovation mystery field.
Jennie Bentley is an Oslo, Norway, native now living in Nashville, a Realtor who has renovated seven houses over the past decade. She has set her first mystery, “Fatal Fixer-Upper,” in coastal Maine.
In the novel, the first in a planned three-book series, Avery Baker, a Manhattan-based interior designer, receives a handwritten letter, postage due, from an ancient relative who lives in Waterfield, Maine, asking her to come for a visit.
After catching her French boyfriend-boss cheating on her with his even younger receptionist, Avery decides that a trip to Maine is just what she needs.
Upon arriving, she discovers that her maiden aunt Inga Morton had died shortly before. Avery also finds out that she has inherited Inga’s wreck of a Victorian house.
In part to annoy Waterfield’s perky blond Realtor and in part to stay away
from New York City, Avery decides to renovate the house herself, with the help of hunky local handyman Derek Baker.
Of course, it’s not that easy. There’s unexplained vandalism inside the house. In her aunt’s desk, Avery finds the card of a local history professor who has been missing for a few weeks. Then prize pieces of furniture disappear from her home. So naturally she becomes an amateur sleuth, trying to puzzle out what’s happening around her.
“Fatal Fixer-Upper” is an enjoyable beginning to a series. Still, it’s hard to see where things are headed, as few of the characters in the book seem to harbor any dark secrets. Perhaps, as in Graves’ Eastport, people will come there to escape to their pasts. Just like Avery has.