THE BODY IN THE SLEIGH, by Katherine Hall Page, William Morrow, New York, 2009, hardcover, 256 pages, $15.99.
Page’s first holiday mystery is a deft turn, complete with a Christmas-themed murder, a snow-covered Down East setting and a baby in a manger.
The 18th release in the Faith Fairchild mystery series, “The Body in the Sleigh” finds Faith and her family celebrating Christmas in an unusual setting — Sanpere Island — where the Fairchilds usually spend part of their summers. That’s because Faith’s husband, the Rev. Thomas Fairchild, is recuperating from surgery, far away from his usual ministerial duties.
Of course, trouble has a way of finding Faith, a full-time caterer and part-time sleuth, even on a tiny Maine island. One day, when she is taking her children Ben and Amy on a tour of the local decorations, she makes a gruesome discovery, as the novel’s title indicates.
The victim turns out to be a former island girl gone bad. Still Faith is content to leave the investigation to the local authorities. That’s in part because she has another mystery to unravel.
An old maid, who is also a goat farmer, finds a baby boy in her barn, with a note from his mother “to raise him to be a good man.” This woman, Mary Bethany, is better equipped to raise kids than, well, children, so she contacts Faith, one of her loyal customers, for help.
So throughout the book, two mysteries are being solved simultaneously. A relative of the Fairchilds’ closest friends on the island comes under suspicion in the murder, while Mary and Faith sift through potential mothers among the former guests at Mary’s bed-and-breakfast.
“The Body in the Sleigh” is an enjoyable, swift read and Page, a part-time Blue Hill resident, gift-wraps everything up with a bow on top.