The Body in the Casket: Katherine Hall Page
Musical director and producer Max Dane has a proposition for gourmet chef and business owner Faith Fairchild one that if she really thought it through might have declined. Imagine hosting your own 70th birthday party at your mansion and inviting ten guests who starred in your last production asking them to come and celebrate your next milestone knowing that one of your guests just might end your life before blowing out the candles on your cake.
What would you do if you received a coffin as a birthday gift? Would you use it as a centerpiece for your birthday buffet? Would you still have a party knowing that it might be your last? Life in Aleford, Massachusetts is about to get dangerous and quite interesting as Faith meets Max Dane and his assistant Ian who provide one part of the mystery and mystique of this story. But, what would having a teenage son be without some drama as his Ben’s girlfriend Mandy whom who guarded and helped when she was going through trouble at school and at home, decides to drop him like a hot potato without warning. Unfriending him on Facebook, thinking she has another boyfriend, even unfriending other people in his own family and town, Ben goes off and reverts into his room and refuses to speak to anyone about what is bothering him. The drama continues and the plot thickens as Pix, Faith’s best friends daughter Samantha loses her job and gets dumped by her boyfriend Caleb making it hard for her to adjust seeing couples who look happy. Ursula is Pix’s mother who is now dating a man named Austin Stebbins who appears to Samantha as being a philanderer and using her grandmother in order to have a place to stay when she sees him come into Starbucks where she is now happily employed making eyes at another woman.
Tom Fairchild is a clergyman and as a minister he is one the planning board of the town council and a real estate company is hoping they accept their proposal to build a strip mall much against many of the members since several landmarks will be involved and torn down. Faith now faces the dilemma of whether to accept the job from Max Dane but not before agreeing to meet him, tour his home and get the information needed before deciding whether to accept the job since she is really there to use her sleuthing skills to uncover a killer before he/she strikes and kills the host. The one character that will intrigue readers is Ian Morrison his assistant who seems to have many different roles yet his personality is austere and his sense of humor or human interaction is cold and standoffish. The offer to cater an entire weekend for what started out as 12 but turned out to be 9 guests will unravel as slowly as each guest arrives except for two one at a time to be greeted by their host.
Let’s get back to the coffin which is front and center but not until we learn more about the guests as author Katherine Hall Page shares their bios with readers, their roles in the past production and then her aunt Charity having been a part of this explains why it failed and the reviews were bad. Was someone trying to get back at him for bad press and a bad show? The coffin has a Playbill from his 20-year old production of the play Heaven and Hell, the Musical, which is also the theme for the costumes the guests are required to wear and the menu. A poor productions that ruined careers, guests invited that were cast in the play as Max reveals that the home he is living in belonged to his mother’s wealthy family who tossed her aside when marrying below her station or class. Once a year as a child he was invited there but the treatment Max and the author relate would make you wonder why no one reported the abuse he received in more ways than one even being locked in a room or denied food as examples. Two of the guests die before they arrive and Faith still has to deal with Ben, the planning board and a member that makes her feel uncomfortable having her around time and the proposition she makes to her after the planning meeting ends. Of course what would this be without the mouth watering food Faith prepares with the help of her partner Niki who creates desserts that would put pounds on the reader just by hearing what they are and how they are prepared. The soups smell great just from the descriptions and the meats, pastas and more make each reader wanting their own gold invitation to Max’s party at Rowan House, his mansion located in Havencrest, Mass.
Meet the cast James Nelson the director, Adrian St. John the writer, Betty Sinclair the lyricist, Tony Ames the choreographer, Jack Gold the designer, Eve Anderson an actor, Alexis Reed and Travis Trent actors and Bella Martelli Costume designer. But, when two die Phil Baker took one of the places. As the curtain comes up and you get to know each member of the case including Max and Ian which one kicks out as the killer? The cast is quite diversified and each one has his/her own hate or grudge against Max but before the body count rises by one the reader might change his/her own perception about Max but who will be the one whose body winds up in the casket?
The party begins and things are tense as the members of the cast each have their own food desires, drink orders and although they are cordial to Faith not all treat her with total respect. But, when the final scene is played and the body is found it’s not Max who winds up dead and the person never saw it coming or was it some kind of joke? The weapon was a coral snake but who put it there but was this person the final victim after all Max was the intended target.
While Faith is dealing with Max, the food, the guests and now a murder, someone pulls the plug on the generator and the landline but who? Someone wants to take out Max since the first attempt failed. The cast is in place and everyone wants to leave as poor Angela thinks that Max is her father since she her mother received money from him but the truth comes out in an odd way and will she be able to deal with it when she meets her real father front and center? The death toll just might include Faith and Max if someone does not think fast and pull the trigger before the killer who was hiding in plain sight does? Samantha in the mean time has found Zach a true love and poor Ursula has learned the truth behind her so called boyfriend’s intentions and they were meant as friendship as he is forsaken and engaged to another. The added touch of the Playbill of Heaven and Hell make the reader think they are attending a play in a theater on Times Square in New York City. The cast is written out, their roles explained in detail a summary of the plot and the cover of the playbill says it all.
Have Faith is her company and for those readers that cook, bake and want some of her mouth watering dishes and, cocktails and desserts to taste and try the recipes for Fallen Angel Cocktail, Lobster Pasta Far Diavolo, and Angel Food Cake, are added after the author’s notes. But, if you want more of her treats and what she makes just read the book and maybe the next time Max has a party or Faith is asked to cater one you might be invited but be very careful, watch each guest carefully and sure that you are not the next BODY IN THE CASKET! Once again author Katherine Hall Page keeps us fed, delightfully engaged and certainly surprised with a twist or who dun nit at the end!
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ magazine