by Sandra Murphy
This week we have a review of the latest mystery by Lea Wait, along with an interesting interview with Lea. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of Thread the Halls. We also have a link to order it from Amazon, and from an indie bookstore where a portion goes to help support KRL.
Thread the Halls: Mainly Needlepoint series by Lea Wait
Review by Sandra Murphy
Angie and Patrick have been dating a few months now so this will be their first shared Christmas. Angie has it all planned until Patrick asks for a favor or two or ten.
Patrick’s mom, Skye, is a movie star. She’s been filming in Scotland, but it hasn’t gone smoothly. To work on the script and the actor’s attitudes, she invites the director, the married writers, and the other two main characters to Haven Harbor, Maine. With only a few days to transform the house into a Christmas fit for a magazine spread, Angie and the other Mainely Needlepointers set aside their own plans and pitch in. A sixteen-foot-tall tree is decorated and lit, wreaths are hung in every window and on each door, and garlands twine the bannisters of the staircase. A cook who will live in for the holiday is hired and things are progressing smoothly by the time the guests arrive.
Or so it seems when a simple walk in the snow turns into a murder investigation before you can say Jack Frost. Angie and Patrick took a detour through the field on their way from Patrick’s home to the main house when they stumbled across a body. Angie had been dealing with a client about custom needlepointed dining room chairs. The woman is also a fan of Skye’s so Angie has to watch what she says in order to keep Skye’s visit a private one. Now there’s a murderer to find. Angie doesn’t go out of her way to investigate, but she can’t help but wonder who had a gun, a motive, and opportunity? With temperatures plummeting, more snow predicted, a power outage, and a killer on the loose, this will be a memorable holiday although not the way Angie had hoped.
Wait writes weather better than anyone. Readers will feel the chill, hear the crunch of snow underfoot, and expect to see icy fog with every exhale—not that there are many since there are a lot of breathtaking moments. The mystery is a good one, with suspense building right til the end. Angie and Patrick are finding their way as a couple. She’s living alone now that Gram married Reverend Tom, unless you count Angie’s kitten, Trixi, who views the Christmas tree the same way a mountain climber views Everest. Angie agreed to stay in Maine for six months. It’s month seven, and she has to admit, it’s home.
This is the sixth book in the series. Jump right in but be warned, you’ll want to add the first five books to your Christmas wish list so you won’t miss a moment of life in Maine. At the beginning of each chapter, find a bit of historical trivia about needlework. At the back of the book, there’s a recipe for tourtiere, a French-Canadian pork pie served at Skye’s Christmas dinner.
Wait also writes the Antique Print series and has a new young adult book, Pizza to Die For, where the amateur detective is a fourteen-year-old girl and future chef. It would make a perfect stocking stuffer.
Lea Wait Interview:
KRL: How long have you been writing?
Leah: All my life! Poetry, plays, nonfiction…I supported my family by writing corporate nonfiction for many years. I started seriously writing fiction in the mid-1990s.
KRL: When did your first novel come out? What was it called? Can you tell us a little about it?
Leah: My first published novel was Stopping To Home, an historical novel for ages 8-14. Eleven-year-old Abbie, vowing to keep her four-year-old brother with her after their mother dies of smallpox, goes to work for a young widow, and must find a way for the three of them to make a living in a Maine seaport in 1806. I was thrilled when Smithsonian Magazine named it a “notable book of 2001.”
KRL: Have you always written mysteries/suspense? If not, what else have you written?
Leah: I’ve written five historical novels for young people set in nineteenth-century Maine, one contemporary mystery for young people, one book of essays on living and writing in Maine, and (so far) 14 mysteries for adults.
KRL: What brought you to choose the setting and characters in your latest book/series? Tell me a little about the setting and main character for your most recent book.
Leah: I’m lucky enough to live on the coast of Maine. My most recent book, Thread the Halls, the sixth in my Mainely Needlepoint series, is set in Haven Harbor, a small working waterfront town in mid-coast Maine. Angie Curtis, my main character, grew up there, the child of an unmarried mother. When she was ten her mother went out one evening and never returned. Brought up by her grandmother, Angie had a rough adolescence, and left Maine after high school, getting a job assisting a private detective in Arizona. The first book in the series, Twisted Threads, begins ten years later when Angie gets a call from her grandmother. “Angie, it’s time to come home. They’ve found your mother.” She returns to Haven Harbor to solve the mystery of her mother’s disappearance, and takes over her grandmother’s custom needlepoint business. In “Thread the Halls” a Hollywood actress comes to Maine for the holidays, bringing with her members of the cast and crew of her latest film. Angie, who’s dating the actress’s son, helps set the stage for the perfect New England Christmas… but doesn’t script finding a body in the snow outside the estate.
KRL: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to take away from your work?
Leah: I write to entertain, but since I was the fourth generation in my family to be an antiques dealer (in my ‘spare’ time), and I love history, I sprinkle bits of information about history and antiques in all my books. For example, at the beginning of each chapter in the Mainely Needlepoint series I include a verse or quotation about needlework.
KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can?
Leah: Some days life interferes! But when I can, I take care of social media, email, and marketing in the morning, and write or edit all afternoon. In the evening I read or do research for my next book. Somehow I find time to spend with my husband, too! He’s an artist, so we both work at home and have irregular schedules. Winters in Maine are productive times.
KRL: Do you outline? If not, do you have some other interesting way that you keep track of what’s going on, or what needs to happen in your book when you are writing it?
Leah: I write a brief synopsis of each book before I start writing. Then I write a chapter at a time, making notes about ideas, phrases, plot twists and so forth as I go. I also keep a “book bible” of notes on every character and place in the series, so I don’t change eye colors or heights of characters between books.
KRL: If you had your ideal, what time of day would you prefer to write?
Leah: Afternoon or evening. I’m not a morning person.
KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?
Leah: I submitted my first mystery to forty different agents over a two-year period. They all said No, so I turned to writing historical novels for young people. Several years later an editor at Scribner read that first mystery and published it. Shadows at the Fair was a finalist for a Best First Novel Agatha award the next year, and I became a mystery writer. Moral: don’t give up!
KRL: Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story you’d like to share?
Leah: In one of my mysteries–no, I won’t say which one–my editor said she hated the villain. I had to change the murderer–in two weeks. To do that I added a new character, starting with the first chapter, and wove the character throughout the book. Presto! A new murderer! It was a challenging, but fun, exercise.
KRL: Most interesting book signing story in a bookstore or other venue?
Leah: My main character in the Shadows series is Maggie Summer, who drinks diet cola. A woman at one of my signings and said she loved my books but, “You’re going to die soon,” she declared. “I’ll miss your books.” Shaken a bit, I told her I felt fine. “No, the diet cola you drink is going to kill you.” I explained that, actually, I don’t drink diet cola–Maggie does. The readers left me an article on the evils of diet sodas, and appeared at several of my other signings that summer to give me other articles. In the next of my Shadows mysteries I had Maggie’s secretary give her one of those articles and tell her she needed to stop drinking diet soda–and eat more chocolate. (Maggie didn’t. But one of my daughters did.)
KRL: Future writing goals?
Leah: So many! I’d love to write a serious historical mystery. I’d like to try suspense. And, of course, I’d love to win a major award for one of my mysteries. But if I never do, I’ll still be very glad to have entertained so many people over the years.
KRL: Writing heroes?
Leah: Sharon McCrumb; I love her Appalachian series. Louise Penny. Linda Fairstein. S.J. Rozan. All of my fellow Mainers at www.mainecrimewriters.com. And so many others. I can’t begin to name them all.
KRL: What kind of research do you do?
Leah: Exacting historical research when necessary. I visit every place I write about, and make sure my descriptions of the place and the animals, plants, weather, etc. are correct. I’ve attended forensic conferences, and I check with experts in many areas, depending on the particular plot.
KRL: What do you read?
Leah: Mysteries, of course! Historical novels, literary fiction, books for young people, and a lot of nonfiction. Most of my reading is related in some way to the books I’m writing.
KRL: Favorite TV or movies?
Leah: My husband and I binge on movies (via Netflix) in the winter. My guilty pleasures are watching Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, and political dramas like Madame Secretary, Designated Survivor, and House of Cards. What I watch most is CNN, though. I’m probably addicted.
KRL: Any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
Leah: Read, especially in the genre you want to write. The year before I wrote my first mystery I read about three hundred contemporary mysteries so I could see what was being published, and what worked and what didn’t. That made a major difference when I wrote my own first mystery.
KRL: Anything you would like to add?
Leah: That I love these interview questions! Thank you for asking. Oh–and don’t miss my latest book for young people, Pizza to Die For. A fourteen-year-old almost-chef from Seattle moves with her mother (an unpublished mystery writer) to New Jersey where she finds quirky characters, solves a murder, and discovers secrets within her own family. It’s a first for me: a funny mystery. I’m really pleased with how much my readers (both young and old) have enjoyed it.
KRL: Awe thanks! What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Leah: Maybe [that] I write mysteries and historical novels about people searching for love, acceptance, and a place to call home because when I was single I was an adoption advocate and adopted four daughters, who were born in Korea, Thailand, Hong Kong, and India.
KRL: That’s great! Where can people find you online?
To enter to win a copy of Thread the Halls, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “halls,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen December 2, 2017. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories in our mystery section.
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:
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.