Title: Crowned and Moldering (Fixer Upper 3)
Author: Kate Carlisle
Publication Date: 2015
After wading through the town Planning Commission’s red tape and authenticity approval through the Historical Society, Shannon Hammer has finally gotten the go-ahead to start renovations on Lighthouse Cove, California’s, town namesake. The historic lighthouse mansion has been abandoned and run-down for many years until former Navy SEAL and famous thriller writer, Mac Sullivan, purchased it with the intent to have it restored to its former glory. Mac’s writing adventures, the bureaucratic delays, and Mac and Shannon’s own budding relationship have all caused interference to the start of the project, but the ink is barely dry on the approval forms when Shannon rushes to the site to begin renovation plans. The mansion has great bones but needs both structural and cosmetic repairs, as well as the removal of mice. As Shannon and her crew check the functionality of the dumbwaiter, the pulley breaks and it crashes to the basement. Their racing hearts just begin to slow down from the near death experience when a new horror appears. In the debris of the dumbwaiter that shattered in the crash are bones . . . human bones.
A medic alert bracelet is found on the remains and it is discovered that the bones belonged to Lily Brogan, sister of Shannon’s crew member Sean, who disappeared fifteen years ago. Lily and Sean’s upbringing was less than idyllic with an abusive father and alcoholic mother. At the time of her disappearance, the then-police-chief ruled that she had run away and little was done to search for her. Sean never gave up on finding her and hired private detectives, as funds became available, to search for her over the last fifteen years.
Police Chief Eric Jensen replaced the old chief a few years prior; he has slowly earned the trust and respect of the town through his thorough and honest actions. He is disgusted to learn how little had been done to protect Lily years prior and to discover the secrets of her disappearance, and he vows to find the answers for Sean and his family who now have to grieve for their sister a second time. But the secrets of Lily’s life and disappearance have been buried for fifteen years and old grudges and guilts resurface with the discovery of her bones. In addition to work stopping on the site for the murder investigation, Shannon also has to deal with an old high school acquaintance whose return to his hometown occurs coincidentally at the same time the bones are found. Cliff Hogarth didn’t take Shannon’s rejections years ago very well and now his new construction company’s encroachment on her crew and jobs threatens her livelihood.
I am a big fan of Kate Carlisle’s Bibliophile mystery series. I have to admit I was a bit reticent about her starting a new series with the Fixer Uppers; you know how you have loyalties to certain authors because of their characters? I was afraid that if I didn’t like the new series, I would have to abandon the original. Luckily, after three books in the Fixer Upper series, I am hooked. She has done a great job at creating a new environment and new characters while still being true to her writing style. When I read this series, it feels like a distant cousin to the Bibliophile series. There are vague similarities but never do I feel that it tries to mimic or copy.
Crowned and Moldering, I think is the best so far in the Fixer Upper series. The characters and settings are well-developed so that she really can devote her text to the development of the plot while incorporating characterization. This story allows Shannon to revisit high school and some of her teachers. I grew up in a small town and although I no longer live there, I really feel that community sense from this story. She really embraces the gossip and old grudges and uniqueness that makes a small town come alive.
There is a fun love triangle between Shannon and Mac and Eric. I am hopeful that Carlisle moves forward in creating a firm relationship between two of the characters. I think because of the nature of each of their occupations – mystery thriller writer and police chief – the way crimes will develop in the series will have a lot to do with who Shannon gravitates toward. Right now, Carlisle is hinting a bit toward one character but she is holding the cards still close. It will be fun to watch as the dynamics develop.
Who might like this book:
I have a hard time categorizing this book. There is definitely more depth and dimension than you usually find in a cozy mystery but it isn’t as multi-layered as some other contemporary authors. I love the California setting and the home renovation aspect . . . I bet Shannon would never put books spine-in on a bookshelf!! If you are looking for a fun, yet engaging read, check out this series. I highly recommend Carlisle’s Bibliophile series as well.
The Fixer Upper series in order:
A High-End Finish
This Old Homicide
Crowned and Moldering