Thursday, May 26, 2016

"The Body in the Wardrobe" by Katherine Hall Page

The Body in the Wardrobe
(Faith Fairchild Mystery Book 23)
by Katherine Hall Page

The Body in the Wardrobe, the twenty-third book in the Faith Fairchild Mystery series by Katherine Hall Page, is currently on tour with Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours. The tour stops here today for a guest post by the author and an excerpt. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

Minster’s wife, caterer, and part-time sleuth Faith Fairchild pairs up with Sophie Maxwell, last seen in The Body in the Birches and now a newlywed living in historic Savannah, Georgia, where Sophie crosses paths with murder.
Attorney Sophie Maxwell has come to Savannah to be with her new husband, Will. But nothing throws cold water on a hot relationship faster than a dead body. Worse for Sophie, no one believes the body she knows she saw is real, Will is spending an awful lot of time in Atlanta on a case he claims is urgent, and she’s been tasked with house hunting for them with his former sweetheart, who Sophie can’t help but suspect wishes Sophie would return to her Yankee roots!
Fortunately, Sophie has a good friend in Faith Fairchild. With teenage Amy being bullied by mean girls and husband Tom contemplating a major life change that will affect all the Fairchilds, Faith is eager for distraction in the form of some sleuthing. In between discussions of newlywed agita, surprising Savannah customs and, of course, fabulous low country food, Faith and Sophie will pair up to unmask a killer!

Her limbs were frozen in place as she stared down at the man, a dark shape against the rich colors of the Oriental carpet on the floor. It was impossible to believe. A body in the wardrobe?
She opened her mouth, took a deep breath, but couldn’t make a sound. And then as if a starter’s gun had gone off, she tore down the stairs and found herself in the kitchen, staring at a door she knew was locked. Just as all the doors were.
Her phone! She looked down at her bare legs. The phone was in the bedroom. She’d taken it out of her skirt. The skirt she was about to hang in the wardrobe. The wardrobe where the dead man had been. Waiting for her to open the door.
Think, Sophie, think! She snatched the landline receiver from the counter, punching in 9-1-1, turned the lock, and wrenched the door open, stumbling into the cool night air. Relief started to flood over her until she realized the killer could be hiding behind the stacks of lumber and bags of cement that filled that garden at the back of the house. Quickly she darted to the path surrounding the house and the gate beyond. She pushed down on the handle; it opened easily.
There was no front yard, only a small patch of ivy with a cast iron planter at the foot of the stairs leading to the front door. Gloria had filled the urn with red cyclamen, evergreens, and pinecones. Sophie moved across to the square and stood under a streetlight. No cars were passing and no one was on the sidewalks, although lights were on in most of the houses.
Her call was picked up. Listening to the voice on the other end saying “this call is being recorded,” Sophie struggled to clear her throat, finally gasping out, “There’s a dead man in my bedroom. He’s been stabbed.”
The remarkably calm-sounding woman on the line responded by asking Sophie’s name, the address, and if she was still inside the house. Sophie answered, her voice getting stronger. Her heart began to slow and her mind began to clear.
“Can you confirm the identity of the dead man?”
“No, I don’t know.” Her thoughts swirled again. Who was he? One of the crew working on the house? She was almost positive she had never seen him before, yet it had all happened so fast she hadn’t gotten more than a glimpse of his face.
“There is a squad car in your area and will be with you immediately,” the dispatcher said. “Are you alone?”
“Yes,” Sophie answered. “I’m alone.” Very alone.
But not for long.
Two police cars, lights flashing, pulled up. Officers wasted no time rushing into the house—through the back when Sophie told them she thought the front was locked. A female officer took Sophie into one of the cars and put a blanket around her. Sophie hadn’t realized she was shivering until she felt the warmth. She was able to answer questions—her name again and a description of the deceased—“At least six feet tall. Heavyset. Long dark hair. Greasy. Dark clothing. Maybe jeans.” She closed her eyes, trying to see it again. Not wanting to see it again.
“Can you describe the weapon?” The officer was busy taking notes.
“A knife with a long, thick black handle. I couldn’t see the blade. It was . . .” Sophie felt her throat close and stopped.
“That’s fine. You’re doing just fine, honey. Is there someone we can call? Family?”
Sophie almost laughed. An hysterical sort of laugh. Her accent had betrayed her. The question mark after “family” could have been drawn in the air with neon it was so vivid. She wasn’t from here.
“My husband is in Atlanta working. This is my mother-in-law’s house.”
Neighbors had gathered a safe distance away from the action. Sophie could see them in small knots speculating on what piece of Savannah news was unfolding. She was overwhelmed with fatigue. The fatigue that had haunted her since the night of the party. She wanted Will. Will, her husband, her beloved. And she wanted him now. Tears gathered in the corners of her eye and blurred the surreal scene outside the squad car window.
The door opened and the officer who had been the first to take off for the house slid next to Sophie.
“Mrs. Maxwell?”
Sophie wiped her eyes with her hand and sat up straight, clutching the blanket around her. “Yes?”
“You did say that the man fell out of the wardrobe in the bedroom at the top of the stairs in the front of the house?”
“Yes, I was putting my clothes away and he . . .” Her voice gave out again for a moment, but she regained it. “He came tumbling right out and I could see he was dead.”
The officer’s voice softened. “There’s no one in the house, dead or alive, darlin’.”
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Author
"Katherine Hall Page is my favorite writer of the traditional mystery." ~ Harlan Coben
"Fans of this long-running series will enjoy the glimpse into Faith’s rich life, reported with flowing narration, as well as ... recipes." ~ Booklist
"Enticing recipes at the back of the book and cooking tips sprinkled throughout. ... The crime is solved satisfactorily ... [but] let’s be honest: most of us came for the food." ~ New York Times Book Review
"A charming tale filled with lively characters and mouthwatering descriptions of local food." ~ Kirkus Reviews

Guest Post by the Author
"How do you get your ideas?"
"How do you get your ideas?" The query pops up in Q&As, as well as at social functions. At one time or another, no doubt as far back as Moses - "So the whole graven images deal, yours?" - every writer has been faced with the question. The ubiquitous question. No one had ever asked me it in regard to previous jobs, although, as an educator, I would have been better equipped to with straightforward answers - "Yes, invented spelling was a bad idea."
Over the course of 27-plus years depending on how tired I am, I’ve sometimes been tempted to give snarky answers: "From the Idea Yellow Pages", "A Sorting Hat", "If I think about it, I can’t do it", or some such thing. Yet, as time has gone on I have realized it is not only a legitimate question - people sincerely want to know where an author delves for material - but also one worth pondering for the author him or herself. Where do we get our ideas?
My favorite quotation on the writing process is from Madeleine L’Engle who described it as "Taking dictation from my imagination." My second favorite is from Mary Roberts Rinehart, also the title of a lovely little book she wrote, "Writing is Work". The second is self-explanatory and all writers know it is painfully true. The first is more complicated. I have never been one who believed that my characters "speak" to me or "take over". It could be that I’m just not lucky in this regard; the heavy lifting is all mine own. However, I do know that when I am writing well and am immersed in the world my imagination is creating, I am a kind of conduit. And this is, therefore, the source of my ideas. They come from me, my brain, and to some extent my experiences, although I used my own life in a book only once when I wrote about our home invasion in The Body in the Bookcase. Except for the occasional corpse, most of that book is true, including the question asked by the first patrolman on the scene as he stood in my breezeway looking at my shattered kitchen door, "Was it like this when you left the house?"
Some writers pluck ideas from the news and I have a file of clippings, but they are not from headline news stories. They are mostly things I find odd or funny. Although, when inheritance issues was a theme in The Body in the Birches, I went back over all the stories about Brooke Astor’s estate as well as a story in the Times business section I’d saved about Boomers facing choices regarding their summer homes. Leave it to the child who loves it, the child who can afford to maintain it, or forget King Solomon and sell the baby intact, thereby avoiding the whole "Dad and Mom love you best" whining. I also used a yellowed clipping from years ago in my short story, "Hiding Places" in Small Plates (2014). The article was about a bigamist who was so thorough - or OCD - that he duplicated his entire wardrobe to make sure that neither "wife" would wonder where he got the new suit. He had the same locks on both homes in order to carry only one set of keys. This became an important detail.
The Body in the Wardrobe is the book out now. I introduced the character Sophie Maxwell in The Body in the Birches and I think the idea of pairing Faith and Sophie for one more book was in the back of my mind while I was writing that one. Sophie is now a new bride and living in Savannah, Georgia. Like Faith in the very first book, The Body in the Belfry (1990), Sophie is an outsider. Faith left the Big Apple for a small town west of Boston. Similarly Sophie leaves a job in Manhattan, having grown up in Connecticut, for the South. Faith finds the still warm body of one of her husband’s parishioners in Aleford’s Old Belfry; Sophie opens an antique wardrobe and a very dead man falls out. Faith’s body stays put, while Sophie’s disappears - and no one believes that there was one. They believe she saw something; Savannah’s nickname is the "Ghost City". Her new relatives are envious of the sighting and even husband, Will, thinks it was a figment. Each woman becomes immersed in a whole new way of life. Sophie takes to Savannah’s scrumptious food more than Faith did to New England’s boiled dinners and the like, but each woman comes to the realization that she would not want to live anywhere else. (It takes Faith a few more books than Sophie.)
So, ideas. The idea of place. Of person. Of plot. Where do we get them? Maybe, after all, the best thing to do really does come down to not thinking too hard about the source - or it could stop dictating.

About the Author
Katherine Hall Page is the author of twenty-two previous Faith Fairchild Mysteries, the first of which received the Agatha Award for best first mystery. The Body in the Snowdrift was honored with the Agatha Award for best novel of 2006. Page also won an Agatha for her short story "The Would-Be Widower". The recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award at Malice Domestic, she has been nominated for the Edgar Award, the Mary Higgins Clark Award, and the Macavity Award. She lives in Lincoln, Massachusetts, and Deer Isle, Maine, with her husband.