SPACKLED AND SPOOKED, by Jennie Bentley, Berkley Prime Crime, New York, 2009, paperback, 309 pages, $6.99.
Author Jennie Bentley returns with the second novel in her mystery series featuring Avery Baker, who is that strange blend of interior designer and crime solver (there are even home-renovation tips at the back of the book).
Former Manhattanite Avery is still settling into her new life in Waterfield, Maine, in the Victorian left to her by her Aunt Inga. Fortunately, she received help renovating that monstrosity from handyman Derek Ellis, who has also become her boyfriend.
Now, in the new book, Avery and Derek are taking the next step in their relationship: working as business partners, they’re renovating a house together, for resale.
But it’s not just any house that they’re fixing up. It’s a ranch, rumored to be haunted, that has been long abandoned after a man killed his wife and his in-laws there almost 20 years earlier.
The couple runs into several obstacles. First, there are unexplained noises in the house. Then Derek discovers human remains in the crawlspace. Finally, a neighbor ends up murdered.
It’s a wonder that Avery gets any work done at all, as she begins looking into who had been in Waterfield at the time of the original killing who still lives there today, in order to commit the second murder. Surprisingly, for a small town in coastal Maine, there are plenty of candidates.
“Spackled and Spooked” is fast-paced, as Avery continues to learn about both the intimacy of small-town life and what a long journey it is to go from being “from away” to being accepted. Bentley will continue to build a readership with this book.