I love a good mystery, and when it is written with a modern twist, that is all the better. Author Lea Wait injects her passion for and knowledge of antique prints into a nifty page-turner of a mystery in Shadows on the Ivy, the latest in her Maggie Summer series. Also known as the “Antique Print Mystery” series, Wait’s other books include Shadows on the Coast of Maine, which is set against the world of auctions and antique documents, and Shadows At the Fair, featuring the world of country antique fairs.
Whether you are into all things antique or not - and let me tell you, I wasn’t until Wait captured my interest with her knowledge of valuable prints - Shadows on the Ivy is just a darn good read. The story takes place at a well-to-do college that also offers a special program to help single parents get their lives back on track while pursuing their studies. But when one of the parents is poisoned, and then another soon turns up dead, faculty advisor and antique dealer extraordinaire Maggie Summer is on the job.
Summer is a charming character – a widow in her thirties, childless, smart and with so much to offer. She wants to be a mom, but when one of her student “wards” ends up poisoned and in a coma, Maggie is not sure she is ready to be a mom, despite the fact that the student had left Maggie in charge of her child in the case of her death.
As Maggie searches for clues to solve the case, she runs into plenty of tantalizing red herrings, and as some stunning secrets are revealed, she comes to realize her life, too, may be in danger as she gets closer and closer to solving the mystery. All the while, she ponders over her love life, her ambivalence about motherhood, and her love of antique prints, which she sees as expressions and reflections of life around her.
At the beginning of each chapter, author Wait features a different antique print and its value to set the stage for the events to come. At first, readers may wonder what the connection is, and let me say here that this is NOT a Da Vinci Code type of mystery, where the clues are embedded in the antique prints. Rather, the prints serve as a symbol of the actions and emotions of the characters as the mystery unfolds, and Maggie’s “other job” as a print collector and dealer gives the story atmosphere and depth. She is not just a woman with a job, but a woman whose passion for antique prints is directly related to her ability to see things beyond their surface, including clues to “whodunit.”
Shadows on the Ivy is one of those books that, upon finishing, leaves you unable to wait to give to someone you know who loves mysteries (my mom is getting my copy next!). It’s a modern, stylish, and fascinating installment in the Antique Print Mystery series that will no doubt have you scouring garage sales and antique fairs for a good find, even as you wait for Wait’s next good read.