Reviewed by Meghan Hyden
I loved this book! For anyone who follows my reviews over on The Gal, you will probably notice that I say this often. After all these years of reading, I make the right choice for me about 90% of the time – and this book was definitely the right choice. It was creative, fun, and kept me wanting more.
Small Plates is a book of short stories that all flow together nicely. Several star a character that you may know from other Katherine Hall books, Mrs. Faith Fairchild. She reminds me a lot of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple (who I love!!). She is married to a Reverend and runs a catering company. It seems, from the stories I have read here, that mysteries are something that Faith is good at solving, sometimes with the help of her husband, and she’s great fun to read about.
The book opens up with a well-written Introduction, letting us know what we are in store for as we begin this book. Having read a lot of short story collections (some that I have liked and some that I have despised), I love to see a collection that begins this way. It gives the adventure you are about to embark on some rhyme ‘n’ reason.
And then there are the stories …
“The Ghost of Winthrop: Prudence Winthrop” lives in the home that she shared with her Aunt Eliza, but now that Eliza has passed away, Prudence thinks the home is haunted by her ghost. After finding out about the interesting will her aunt left, she confides all of this to Faith, who eagerly helps the lady solve the mystery. (This is one of my favorites in the book and a great beginning. I had never met Faith Fairchild before and now she is one of my favorite characters.)
“Death in the Dunes” is another story involving Faith Fairchild and her husband. This time they are at The Oceanside Retreat where the Reverend is attending a conference. When a lady shows up scared at her door one night, Faith is pulled into another mystery.
“The Would-Be Widower”: A man decides that he would be a great widower and even goes about, at the beginning of the story, imagining what his life would be like. The problem is, his wife is not anywhere near death. As he goes about trying to “fix” his situation, things happen that prove that not everything works out the way you want them to.
“Across the Pond”: Faith Fairchild makes another appearance, this time with her sister, Hope, and a close friend, Polly. Polly has recently become engaged – to her step-sister’s ex-fiance (and you will never believe where they met). As you can imagine, drama ensues – and another mystery is there for Faith to solve. (The ending to this one was completely unexpected. I mean, right up to the end I thought I had an idea of what was going to happen, but when it ended … wow.)
“A Perfect Marine Day”: This story opens with Myra Peters found dead in the water, having fallen over the side of a boat, which was odd to everyone who knew her because she grew up on boats and her father had a lobster company. So what DID happen? The story-teller (this is in first-person and the teller never reveals her/his identity) investigates.
“Hiding Places”: Felicity Wyndham is pregnant with her son and newly married to the love of her life. While her husband travels for business, she passes the time decorating their new home. While she’s doing this, she finds that her husband has lots of little hiding places around the place, which she finds cute, and she makes a game out of finding them. But sometimes when you make the decision to snoop, you might not like what you find
“The Proof Is Always in the Pudding”: Another Faith Fairchild story, and another one of my favorites with her. She’s having a conversation with her mother-in-law while she helps her prepare for the up-coming Christmas festivities. There’s an extra person for dinner and her mother-in-law is worried, especially because of “The Fairchild Christmas Dinner Curse.” Faith is shocked that her husband hasn’t told her about this, especially since he knows her love of a good mystery. Was there a murder one Christmas long ago? Or was it simply an accident? Read the story and you’ll see.
“Sliced”: In this story, Faith Fairchild has agreed to be part of a fund-raiser for breast cancer research. Think of the reality cooking shows you’ve seen on TV and you’ll know what she’s dealing with – four acclaimed New England Chefs competing for the Golden Toque, having to make three courses (appetizer, entree and dessert), all using specific ingredients that they aren’t told until right before they begin cooking. What could have been fun ended up just a bad situation all around when she found out just WHO she was competing against. As usual, there is a mystery, but this one isn’t hard to solve. (This is my absolute favorite of the whole book. I went to school for culinary arts and found this story really intriguing.)
“The Two Marys”: Mary finds a baby abandoned in her barn on Christmas Eve and, not knowing what to do, calls upon Faith Fairchild Christmas Day for help. Having heard about a previous mystery she had solved (a dead body near the lighthouse, and then more “accidents” afterwards), Mary knew she was the one to call, especially living on such a small island where rumors and secrets spread like wildfire. (A very well written and powerful story that made me cry. The perfect ending to this amazing book of short stories, which, in all honesty, was the BEST book of short stories I have ever read.)
But wait … that’s not the end. The last few pages of this book have three delicious looking recipes from three of the stories in the book.
Well done, Katherine Hall. You have a new fan. :)
You can find Meghan (that’s Meghan spelled the right way) over on her book-ish blog The Gal in the Blue Mask. She’s an avid reader, a book editor, a story teller, a purveyor of delectable fare and pulchritudinous confections, and the best aunt in the world. She loves gardening, hiking, cooking and spending time at the zoo, library and museums. She may not be able to find her wallet, car keys or sunglasses, but she always knows where her Kindle is.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by William Morrow. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.