Thomson (Summon the Tiger, 2016) taps into the powerful emotional satisfaction that comes with solving a puzzle in this cozy mystery.
Maggie Fraser’s status as a fish out of water has served her well. After getting her business degree in Scotland, she moves to New York—far from her home and her well-meaning but overprotective family. She initially finds Manhattan inhospitable, but she meets and falls in love with Ben, a genuine, caring student who changes her outlook. Stilted dialogue somewhat undercuts the building chemistry and romance, but the warmth of the characters’ emotions nevertheless shines through: “I have always been interested in amazing structural designs, especially of ancient buildings. The arches with keystones. Flying buttresses and the strength seen in old, old structures that have allowed them to remain for hundreds, even thousands of years.” Despite concerns over where their respective careers might take them, they marry and find themselves in Italy, where Maggie is the happiest she’s ever been. Maggie’s life takes a harsh, strange turn when tragedy occurs, and she subsequently discovers a strange amulet. Investigating the relic’s origins takes her across the world and embroils her in a web of international intrigue that involves her family, friends, and confidants. It’s in these murky waters that Maggie begins to find herself, and in the unexpected sleuthing, she finds she’s not alone. Thomson’s prose is generally solid, but it sometimes resorts to telling rather than showing, even at the story’s most emotional moments: “She yanked her hands free and, crying uncontrollably, ran towards the stairs, towards her room. She was stopped by another policeman, who took her into his arms and hugged her strongly.” Nevertheless, the pacing is quick, and the element of travel provides rich backdrops and description. Readers will find the unfolding story charming and ultimately affirming.
Sometimes awkward but a satisfying synthesis of mystery, history, and emotion.