Triple Witch by Sarah Graves
The second book in the Home Repair is Homicide Series opens with a homicide, which is always a nice way to start a murder mystery, in my opinion. It goes on to reintroduce us to all of the people we got to know in the first book, including Jacobia’s delightfully hateful ex-husband. I don’t know about you, but I like a good character that you’re allowed to just outright hate. Obviously, we’re allowed to hate outright the murderer...but that’s not nearly as fun.
Triple Witch finds the tiny town of Eastport, Maine preparing for a fourth of July celebration and a visit from a woman who will determine whether or not the town gets a grant based on it’s level of historic integrity. So in between finding bodies, snooping about with best-friend Ellie, dating Wade, counseling her son, Sam, and fighting with ex-husband Victor, Jacobia is rescuing and repairing shutters in an attempt to get them hung before the grant benefactor arrives.
A note - Graves switched up her writing style a bit for this one. It’s choppy, which is sometimes disorienting, but not overly detracting from the story. Since the first book I read in the story came at the end of what has been published I can say with confidence that this choppiness smoothes itself out, so don’t let it detract you.
The plot - the murder plot - is pleasantly thick and complicated enough that when it all drops into place you are surprised that you missed some of the blatant hints she dropped. But glad that you did because if you’d picked up on it you would have just been frustrated at how daft everyone was being. The moments of suspense are satisfying, particularly the one at which everything comes rushing together. It was one of those times when the bath water had gotten cold but rather than get out and pause reading I reached up with one hand and turned the hot tap on and then settled back to finish the book. You’ve had that moment, too. Don’t lie.
The b-plot, the home repair, is always interesting to me. Satisfying even in the moments of destruction because there is information seeping off the page. Read enough of these books and you, too, could rehab an 1823 Federal clapboard in Maine. And you probably want to, anyway. I do.
Of course, there’s also ex-husband Victor to consider. Vile Victor who will manipulate, lie, cheat, throw temper tantrums, disappear...basically whatever it takes to get his way. He shows up as an unwelcome houseguest and sticks around to be a thorn in everyone’s side. Like I said, he’s fun to hate...even when Graves shows us a bit of his genuine vulnerability and gives us the sense that maybe he’s not a complete sociopath.
We’re also getting to watch Sam grow up, now he’s considering colleges and careers and having to figure out how to stand up to his father, protect his mother, and keep himself happy. A tall order for even an adult but Graves writes him with such honesty and complexity that it’s as if she’s just recording the actual life of a teenage boy and inserting it into fiction. Who knows, maybe she is.
Graves wraps the novel with a lead-in to the next, and if I didn’t have the self control I do have, I’d be running out to pick it up to read. But I’m doling these out slowly to myself, so I don’t run out.