cover image Maquette for Murder

Maquette for Murder

Gretchen Sprague. Minotaur Books, $22.95 (240pp) ISBN 978-0-312-19920-3

Sixty-three-year-old former lawyer Martha Patterson, back for her second civilized foray as an amateur sleuth (after Death in Good Company), feels the tension between artists at a reception in her friend Hannah Gold's Brooklyn studio. On display are a model--maquette--of Hannah's entry in a Minnesota competition and pieces by Hannah's new assistant, Kent Reed. Later that evening Martha receives an almost incoherent phone call from a hysterical Hannah. After promising to get help, Martha learns that someone has not only attacked Hannah in her studio and ruined her maquette but killed Kent. Shocked, she can't help wondering about Hannah's rival for the competition, Dennie Simm, and his wife, Olive, whose eyes seemed to have followed Kent all evening. Could either of them have wreaked such havoc? Martha later finds incriminating evidence against both of them: Kent had just broken off an affair with a still-smitten Olive, while Olive had been seen near the studio after the reception. But why would jealous husband Dennie or spurned lover Olive harm Hannah and her art? Following through all the leads, Martha arrives at an answer that should please if not wholly surprise readers of this almost bloodless cozy. (Feb.)