Book Review: Katherine Hall Page’s The Body in the Birches

Posted June 23, 2015 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Katherine Hall Page’s The Body in the Birches

The Body in the Birches


Katherine Hall Page

It is part of the Faith Fairchild #22 series and is a amateur sleuth, mystery in Hardcover edition that was published by William Morrow on May 12, 2015 and has 240 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.

Other books in this series include Small Plates

Other books by this author which I have reviewed include The Body in the Bouillon, The Body in the Vestibule, The Body in the Cast, The Body in the Basement, The Body in the Bookcase, The Body in the Big Apple, The Body in the Moonlight, The Body in the Bonfire, The Body in the Lighthouse, The Body in the Attic, The Body in the Snowdrift, The Body in the Ivy, The Body in the Sleigh, The Body in the Bog, The Body in the Gazebo, The Body in the Boudoir, The Body in the Piazza

Twenty-second in the Faith Fairchild cooking mystery series and usually revolving around Faith, a chef, mother, and wife. The focus is on another family on Sanpere Island and their family dramas over The Birches.

My Take

It’s a tale of inheritance and the family battles it can inspire. It’s not just Aunt Priscilla’s house, but worries that a number of characters have or about which they’ve heard. The Fairchilds are on the periphery in this tale, although young Ben has his place in the sun in this. The boy is growing up.

Page includes a few red herrings and has left a number of loose threads. Other than that it’s a typical Page novel with the fun coming in with the contestants at The Birches. It’s not one of Page’s better stories although it really is funny to read the lousy behavior and the sucking up done by various family members. How can they not realize how easy it is to see through it? The Body in the Birches does bring up a twisty question about inheriting a family property that everyone has become accustomed to using. Home. A memory people want to hang onto. There is a nifty solution that Page mentions that sounds very practical.

As for the loose threads and unbelievable scenes, Page doesn’t make me believe the romance that crops up. It’s just suddenly there. Yes, Page has been pushing at Sophie’s subconscious with those jealous thoughts, but even those aren’t realistic as Page hasn’t included Sophie thinking positive thoughts about her supposed love interest. The complication of Ian was “interesting”, but lame in the romance arena. I’d have liked an explanation of Rory’s obnoxious behavior over the summer. What’s revealed at the end of the story doesn’t jive with his actions. I have to wonder why the food-loving Faith doesn’t make Zach’s acquaintance? And what’s with that gun in the Lexus Babs insists that Sophie take to Sanpere Island? Then there are the little melodramas. Enough to make me think about some eye-rolling and hope that future Faith Fairchild stories don’t continue like The Body in the Birches.

Marian’s surprise illness puts a damper on things as does Ben’s surge of independence as he grows toward adulthood. It’s a minefield of worry for Faith as she tries to suppress her worries about her son and her worries about her mother-in-law.

Oh, boy. Seems Tom is more and more unhappy about Faith’s involvement in murder. That case in The Body in the Piazza, 21, was almost the last straw.

Huh. I’ve always wondered what fairy cakes were.

The Story

It makes for good gossip on the island as the contest over who gets The Birches starts when family gathers to duke it out. It’s better than watching TV as the island soap opera begins.

One that turns tragic as people begin to die.

The Characters

The much-put-upon Sophie Maxwell, a lawyer who loves to cook, made some bad choices, but is available to hold her mother’s place at The Birches. Babs Proctor Maxwell Rothenstein Williams Harrington is her mother and the oldest sibling; she’s on her fourth husband, Ed Harrington. Ian Kendall was that bad choice. A British lawyer with the morals of a snake.

Great-aunt Priscilla Proctor McAllister inherited The Birches and has placed Uncle Paul McAllister in charge of choosing who inherits it in turn. Sophie’s great-grandparents, Josiah and Eleanor Proctor, had built The Birches as a summer cottage in the late 1800s. Bev Boynton is the family housekeeper and cook who comes to The Birches with the family every summer. Marge Foster will step in for Bev. Will Tarkington is Uncle Paul’s abrasive nephew from Georgia and a trained EMT.

The rest of the family
Simon is Babs’ brother, and he’s married to Dierdre. The twins, Forbes, a lawyer, and Felicity, the perpetually engaged, are their only children. Barclay “Barks” Smythe-Jones is Felicity’s current jerk of a fiancé. (Mary and Daniel were Babs and Simon’s parents.) The tie-dye-loving Sylvia is Babs and Simon’s cousin. Sylvia’s children are the gorgeous Autumn, the manipulative Rory Proctor, and the frustrated, young Daisy. Each has a different father, and Sylvia believes in leaving her children to live their lives as they choose unless she needs their attention.

The core characters of the series include:
Faith, caterer of her own business, Have Faith, is married to the Reverend Thomas Fairchild, and they have two children: the fifteen-year-old Ben and the twelve-year-old Amy. Marian and Dick Fairchild are Tom’s parents. Craig, Betsey, and Robert (Michael is his partner) are Tom’s siblings. The Reverend Lawrence Sibley is Faith’s father. Her sister Hope is married to Quentin, another lawyer, and they have a son. Niki Theodopoulos is Faith’s assistant and co-owner.

Ursula Lyman Rowe has a family cottage, The Pines, to which her family comes for the summer. She’s invited the Fairchilds to stay while their cottage is being added onto. Pix Miller is Ursula’s daughter and Faith’s best friend and neighbor in Aleford, Massachusetts. Sam, a lawyer, is Pix’s husband. Their children are Mark (married to Becca), Samantha, and Dan. Henry and Arthur are the Miller’s golden retrievers. (Dusty had died in January.) Gert Prescott is Ursula’s housekeeper at The Pines. The childless Arnie, Pix’s brother, is an orthopedic surgeon, married to Claire. Dana Cameron is a surprise for the whole family.

Sanpere Island inhabitants include:

The Laughing Gull Lodge (the Lodge) is…
…one of the premier inn-restaurants in the area and has changed hands frequently over the years. The current owners are the Otises who are hoping that putting their son, Derek, in charge will settle him down. Tyler, one of Nan and Freeman (he calls the dances) Hamilton‘s grandsons, is a friend of Ben’s and both will be working as dishwashers at the Lodge. Mandy Hitchcock is working in the kitchen and will give the boys rides to and from. Leilah is Mandy’s mother; Dwayne is her abusive, supposedly disabled father. Sally is a friend of Mandy’s near Waterville. The excellent Chef Zach Hale is getting increasingly frustrated.

Seth Marshall was the Fairchilds’ original builder of their summer cottage and is building the addition this summer. A single man, Faith enjoys his broad knowledge of the island. Forrest “Fod” Nevells is a local guy who’s a wizard at restoring cars. Paul has hopes for his vintage 1973 Triumph Stag. Margie is Fod’s wife. Chris Knight is a sailing buddy of Tom’s; Kathy is his wife. Dr. Edwin Ricks is a well-known New York psychiatrist who has retired to Sanpere Island. He volunteers with the ambulance corps. Steve Johnson is the harbormaster; Roberta is his wife. Sergeant Earl Dickinson is the go-to detective on Sanpere. Robbie Gray is a fisherman; Kathy is his wife. Captain Robertson will take the Prescott contingent on a puffin tour.

Gillian had been a sympathetic neighbor in London.

The Cover and Title

The cover is gorgeous with its white background and the birches creating a border. The perspective is as a body lying on the ground and looking up with those tall, tall birches reaching to the sky.

The title is the first murder at The Birches, The Body in the Birches.