Friday, May 18, 2012

A Deadly Grind - Victoria Hamilton


A Deadly Grind         
A Vintage Kitchen Mystery
Victoria Hamilton
Berkley Prime Crime
 
Mystery
 
Jaymie Leighton’s hobby is collecting vintage things for her kitchen.  That includes vintage bowls, dishes, implements, cookbooks, and even furniture.  As the story begins, Jaymie and her sister, Becca, who runs a lucrative business replacing odd pieces of china, are at an estate sale.  Becca is there for the china lots.  Jaymie is in love.  The object of her affection is a Hoosier cabinet, the top-of-the-line piece of kitchenware for housewives in the 1920s and 1930s, before the advent of built-in cupboards.  She manages to get the cabinet home, and, with some help, temporarily placed on the summer porch of her childhood home.
 
That night, Jaymie and Becca awake to sounds of an intruder.  When they reach the summer porch, they’re shocked to find the body of a strange man.  No one in the tourist town recognizes the man.  Even after being questioned by the police, Jaymie can’t imagine what someone would have wanted in her home, but it clearly centered on the Hoosier.  Crime is uncommon in their little community, and violent crime rarer still.  Jaymie, incensed that someone would ruin the sense of peace she feels in her beloved home, decides to do what she can to get to the bottom of things.
 
This is the first in a new series, and does a fine job of introducing the characters.  Jaymie is thought of around town as a bit of an oddball, since she’s still (horrors!) single in her 30s.  Her life is based on activities in her hometown, and her collection.  This allows the reader to get to know her quite well, but it also proves to be a stumbling block in the mystery plot.  Far too much time is devoted to her endlessly considering her list of suspects and their possible motives.  At about the two-thirds mark, a suspect, with no real provocation, spills his guts to get the plot moving again.  In fact, all of the baddies here do the James Bond Villain too-much-information thing, explaining their plans and plots in detail, and answering endless questions instead of actually doing anything.
 
The bright points of this novel are the characters in town and the history.  Following Jaymie on her day-to-day business really gives the reader a sense of the place and the people.  The author really fosters a sense of community and belonging among Jaymie and her neighbors that makes for a nice atmosphere.  The mystery is almost an also-ran here, which will be disappointing for some readers.  Jaymie and her neighbors seem like real people who might live in your own neighborhood, and I liked them all well enough that I’ll be happy to check out her next adventure.
 
Rating: 5 ½
May 2012
ISBN# 978-0-425-24801-0 (paperback)

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