Widow’s Wreath By Cynthia Riggs: Review/Giveaway/Guest Post

Jul 14, 2018 | 2018 Articles, Mysteryrat's Maze, Sandra Murphy

by Sandra Murphy
& Cynthia Riggs

This week we have a review of Widow’s Wreath by Cynthia Riggs along with a fun guest post by Cynthia about having a 92-year-old main character. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of Widow’s Wreath, and a link to purchase it from Amazon, and an indie bookstore where a portion of the sale goes to help support KRL.

Widow’s Wreath: Martha’s Vineyard Mystery By Cynthia Riggs
Review by Sandra Murphy

Penny Arbuthnot has asked her cousin Victoria Trumbull if she’ll host Penny’s wedding. Victoria agrees but soon finds out Penny has a much larger event in mind than she first mentioned. Victoria assumed cake, lemonade, and white wine. Penny’s plans include three tents, two hundred guests along with their plus ones so maybe five hundred total, the ceremony broadcast over closed-circuit television for those who won’t fit into the church, and a raw bar, not to mention drinks. Penny is desperate to marry money and thinks she’s found the right man in Rocco whose family (mobsters?) are in the billionaire category. Rocco hasn’t mentioned to Penny that his dad disowned him and Rocco himself is deep in debt. He thinks, because Victoria lives on Martha’s Vineyard, she’s wealthy, and he’s marrying money.

The wedding is put on hold when a dead body is found hanging in Victoria’s rarely used basement. It’s a puzzle as to how the body got there. And who it is. mystery book cover

Relatives arrive on the Vineyard, “friends” too, that is guys Rocco owes money to who expect to be paid immediately after the ceremony. Things really get interesting when Rocco’s girlfriend shows up. She thought she was his fiancé.

There are many twists, turns, red herrings, outright misunderstandings, mistaken identities, and suspects and motives to choose from. Victoria may be ninety-two-years-old but with age comes wisdom. She knows Penny is better off far away from Rocco and that Rocco is in more trouble than he can imagine if he can’t pay his bills.

This is the fourteenth book in the series. I love that Victoria is still active, has the sharpest mind in any setting, and takes an interest in everything. You might think she’s being scammed, but she’s aware and just seeing where the plot goes. Her body might move slower, but her mind is always at full speed.

Riggs also wrote Murder on C-Doc, Victoria Trumbull’s Guide to Martha’s Vineyard, and Daphne of Martha’s Vineyard.

Sandra Murphy lives in the shadow of the Arch in St. Louis Missouri. She writes about eco-friendly topics, pets and wildlife for magazines and reviews mysteries and thrillers for KRL. A collection of her short stories, published by Untreed Reads, From Hay to Eternity: Ten Tales of Crime and Deception can be found at all the usual outlets. Each one is a little weird and all have a twist you won’t see coming.

Why a 92-Year-Old Sleuth?
By Cynthia Riggs

“The best thing about getting old,” said my mother when she was 95 and appeared in a CBS special on aging, “is that you can flirt with the men and their wives don’t mind.”

To which a wife, watching my mother on TV, responded, “Wanna bet?”

My mother, Dionis Coffin Riggs, was—and is—my role model on aging. And she has appeared as the sleuth in all 14 books of my Martha’s Vineyard Mystery series, solving crimes a much younger sleuth would have shrunk from.

She was almost 99 when she died, and that day she went to church, to the christening party for her twenty-second great-grandchild, read the Sunday New York Times, wrote her weekly column for the local paper, and was getting ready for an evening meeting on spiritual growth when we found her. She had slipped away.


Cynthia Riggs

What was her secret? She heard that question often once she hit her mid-80s. Her stock answer was, “I just don’t think about myself.”

She didn’t. She thought about world issues and sent off small contributions of two, three, or five dollars to organizations that might find cures for world problems.

She thought about state issues. She wrote letters to her senator, who recognized her when he visited our Island.
She thought about local issues. She was active in the Conservation Society, the League of Women Voters, the Island’s NAACP, and the Up Island Council on Aging. She read to schoolchildren at the West Tisbury school and once a week would “read to the elderly” at the hospital. She, herself, wasn’t elderly, even in her nineties.

She applied for a Fulbright fellowship to study the work of Turkish poets. In Turkey. They turned her down. Ageism at work.

She was game for anything, from an evening of dancing to a lecture on econometrics.

I’m sure she had the ailments that I, in my eighties, have. Teeth, eyes, joints, flutterings around the heart, strange grumblings in the gut. But whenever I asked her how she was feeling, she had to re-focus, because she had been thinking about something more important than herself.

It’s no wonder I’ve used my mother as the model for Victoria Trumbull, the 92-year-old sleuth in my mystery series. She’d have been pleased to ride shotgun with the local police chief, out-thinking the bad guys.

But even more than honoring one remarkable woman, I wished to attack the rampant ageism of our times, the stereotypes of sweet old ladies and cozy grandfathers, of elders fretting about change and the lost good old days, and the emphasis on youthful appearance.

Victoria Trumbull’s face is wrinkled, her fingers are gnarled. She’s shrunk from a stately five-foot-ten to a mere five-foot-five. She uses a walking stick—but only to keep from hurting the feelings of her granddaughter, who cut the stick from the lilac bush for her. Her shoe has a hole cut in it to relieve the pressure on her sore toe.

Yet Victoria has nine decades of experience that the police chief has come to depend on. She knows everyone in her small town, and almost everyone on Martha’s Vineyard, the Island where she was born. She knows who’s related to whom, who’s not speaking to whom, and who lives down that unmarked sand road. She knows the trees and shrubs and wildflowers. She can look at the sky and forecast the weather—better than that Providence, Rhode Island, weatherman on the local TV channel.

Because Victoria is wise, she can state opinions on issues I would never dare allow a younger sleuth to voice. She understands why the local Indian tribe wants to build a casino (Victoria is a gambler). She scolds a gay friend for yielding to blackmail. She cares about the hurts of a mixed-race couple when the pale mother wheels her dark baby into the supermarket. She takes for granted the non-traditional jobs people around her hold: a woman gravedigger, a male nurse, a carpenter with an MBA from Dartmouth, a female boat rigger.

Victoria can express her opinions now that she’s older. She scolds a stalker. She argues with the editor of the local paper over his editorial positions. She stands up in Town Meeting and changes voters’ minds. She confronts a murderer and convinces him to give himself up.

She is no longer afraid of the world outside her door, although I don’t think she was ever seriously afraid of anything. She escapes from a kidnapper by pretending she’s a feeble old lady, the very stereotype she abhors. She volunteers to serve as bait to trap a serial killer.

“I’d rather be the age I am now, than any other age,” my mother used to say, as my sisters and I watched her through her seventies, eighties, and nineties.

She was proof of the grace and freedom that comes with age.

To enter to win a copy of Widows Wreath, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “wreath,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen July 21, 2018. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address (so if you win we can get the book sent right out to you), and if via comment please include your email address. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. Be sure to check out our new podcast which just launched.

Use this link to purchase the book & a portion goes to help support KRL & indie bookstore Mysterious Galaxy:

You can also use this link to purchase the book on Amazon. If you have ad blocker on you may not see the link:

Cynthia Riggs, author of 14 books in the Martha’s Vineyard mystery series, runs a B&B for poets and writers on Martha’s Vineyard. She has a degree in geology from Antioch College and an MFA from Vermont College. For 20 years she held a U.S. Coast Guard Masters License, 100-ton vessels.

Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases using those links. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.


  1. Your mom sounds amazing! I wish I was that active and I’m only 58! I am going to take her advice and get out there and do things!
    Thank you for the giveaway.

  2. I haven’t read any books in this series but I sure would like to. They sound delightful. The character sounds wonderful! Thanks for the chance to win!

    faithdcreech at gmail dot com

  3. This sounds like an excellent book and series. Thanks for the chance to win a copy. crs(at)codedivasites(dot)com

  4. I love the Martha’s Vineyard books!

  5. This would be a new series for me.
    Sounds like a great read.
    Being elderly myself, I look forward
    to seeing how Victoria gets around.
    thanks for the chance

  6. Another new-to-me author! The cover is gorgeous, and the idea of a 92-year-old protagonist is exciting! Seriously, I love the 20 and 30-something sleuths, but I have come to enjoy the seasoned ones too! Thank you for the chance to win!

  7. I haven’t read this series yet. Great review and description of the book, would love to visit Martha’s Vineyard in “Widow’s Wreath”.

  8. Thank you for the opportunity.

  9. We have a winner!


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