The Body in the Casket by Katherine Hall Page
Published by William Morrow, 238 pages, $26
Retired Broadway producer Max Dane’s final production, Heaven or Hell, was the only flop of his career. Two decades later, he receives the old show’s playbill inside a casket that arrives on his doorstep. Thus kicks off The Body in the Casket, the 24th book in Katherine Hall Page’s “Body in” series featuring caterer and sleuth Faith Fairchild.
In an effort to figure out who’s behind the threatening delivery, Max invites the production’s actors to a soiree at his elegant estate in Havencrest, a fictional wealthy enclave in Massachusetts. He employs our protagonist, Faith, as a caterer, while also telling her that he suspects one guest wants to murder him.
Before the party, there’s coziness of food enjoyed by Faith’s family and friends. Love stories are ignited among the younger generation, while the older Ursula, a widow, is courted by a man of the old-world Boston establishment. Page, who splits her time between Maine and Massachusetts, perfectly captures the twinklings of her characters’ privileged schools, houses and clothes.
The celebration brings Max’s sinister actors back together. His fawning helper Ian has his own secret, while it’s revealed that Max, before his Broadway celebrity, had been a mistreated child. Then one guest has an even greater personal surprise in store.
Page juggles many characters, some ferocious, while keeping comfort food appealing to read about—her trademark recipes included—as real discomfort unrolls on the pages. The well-named Faith, the mainstay in this decades-long mystery series, adds some relieving balance to the characters as a stable cook, loving mother and wife of a minister.
From page 190: “I’ll check in an hour. Do you have what you need for now?” “Yes, Mrs. Fairchild. Nice Mrs. Fairchild. Pretty Mrs. Fairchild. Too bad I’m so hungover. Besides making them, you’re a tasty dish yourself.” “And a very happily married one,” she said as she left.” ◆