The first book of a new cozy mystery series, Lye in Wait: A Home Crafting Mystery is a fun addition to a popular genre.
Sophie Mae Reynolds is a thirty-something widow living with Meghan, her newly divorced friend, and her daughter in a small town north of Seattle. They both have home-based businesses: Meghan does massage therapy while Sophie Mae makes beauty products in a basement that has been completely renovated as a workroom. While coming down the steps, she sees the neighborhood handyman lying dead on the floor, having drunk a glassful of lye. A scent of peppermint is curiously present, and since her own stash of lye is securely locked up, Sophie Mae immediately realizes something is wrong with this picture.
Police rule it a gruesome suicide, but Sophie Mae is baffled as to why Walter would choose her basement to end it all. That night she goes next door to turn out the lights still burning in his cottage and finds the house key missing and door ajar. Although he lived a rather spartan lifestyle, she finds that Walter was in fact a very wealthy man who gave away most of his money to charity. When the police ask her and Meghan to plan the funeral, Sophie Mae meets his estranged mother and, the biggest surprise of all, a loving fiancée. It is starting to look less and less like a suicide; when arson enters the picture, Sophie Mae takes it upon herself to question friends and neighbors. Between cooking up vats of soap and lip balm, she tries to answer the question of who would want such a good man dead. As clues begin to surface, she turns to Detective Ambrose and begins to develop an interest in more than just the case.
In the meantime, Meghan’s out-of-work ex-husband is giving her more than the usual amount of problems. When Sophie Mae is almost run down in the street, she wonders whether it is an angry domestic reprisal or a nervous killer trying her kept quiet. Or are they one and the same?
This enjoyable mystery contains plenty of twists and turns and even has a nice twist at the end. The main characters are likeable, funny, and have believable lives. Two grown women living together to make ends meet is an intriguing premise, and I wondered how the relationship would pan out. Throughout the story, author Cricket McRae includes a few conflicts between the two women and how they resolve them. Their daily routines, like cooking and cleanup, show the two working together, and confrontations with Meghan’s ex-husband demonstrate mutual strength and loyalty as they band together to protect Meghan’s daughter.
The book presents a lot of information on how to run a home-based business. Recipes for some of the handmade products featured in the story are included at the end along with websites that carry supplies. I look forward to Cricket McRae’s next book, called Heaven Preserve Us, which comes out later this year.