Cover Image: Death in the Details

Death in the Details

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Member Reviews

Drawing inspiration from true crime and offering readers a smartly plotted puzzle of a mystery, Death in the Details is a stunning series debut. Set in the post-WWII era this was a really compelling historical mystery. This was quite the page-turner and kept me engaged until the very end.

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Death in the Death is the debut mystery novel by Katie Tietjen. The author was inspired by the real life forensic pioneer Frances Lee Glessner who first used dioramas to solve crimes.

Maple Bishop has inherited a house in a small town in Vermont. She has recently been widowed as her husband died in the last days of WWII. Maple has an urgent need to make money fast. Since she is unable to find work as a lawyer since she is a woman, she turns to her hobby of making dollhouses to help herself. Along the way she meets a new sheriff’s deputy and the owner of the hardware store in town. While delivering one of her first commissions, she discovers the body of a local businessman hanging from the rafters of his barn. Maple feels compelled to find out why this crime happened.

I devoured this book in a few days. I loved the details about making doll houses and then crime scene boxes. In addition, any book set in Vermont captures my attention. I gave this book 5 stars and I look forward to reading more from this author. Thank you to NetGalley and Crooked Lane Books for the free advanced reader’s copy in exchange for an honest review.

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I thought this was really well written and I look forward to reading more from this author in the future. I think it will find readers at our library, so we will definitely be purchasing for the collection.

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Historical Mystery inspired by a real person? Count me in. I enjoyed reading this post-WWII story about a war widow struggling to work and live in Vermont. It was interesting to see how the main character, who didn't have success being hired by her profession turns on her hobby of doll house making. After one unfortunate event when she finds herself on a death scene, she recreates the barn scene in a miniature model, which helps her start working with a young deputy to find the truth.
What a fascinating story that kept me turning pages until the end. I'm looking forward to reading future books by this author.

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Maple Bishop is trying very hard to deal with the loss of her husband Bill. It is post WWII and she now finds herself penniless, going to lose her home and lifestyle. She turns to her craft, the one she is good at - miniature dollhouses, till she discovers a dead body when she goes to deliver her first order.

Being the first on the scene she notices discrepancies in the way the body was hanging and though the doctor and sheriff both want to wrap it up as a suicide, Maple has her doubts right from the start and is frustrated when her efforts to start an investigation are stalled. The sheriff does not want his upcoming retirement disturbed and the doctor, who is an old hand is in Maples opinion a very straight and honest man.

When she gets the support of the youngest recruit in the sheriffs office on her side, Maple starts a quiet investigation of her own, disrupting the life of several of its citizens and creating a furor wherever she goes. Undeterred Maple continues, bringing down corrupt government officials, baring a sugar racketeering scam and setting right many things including getting justice.

A rather vintage crime classic. Very pleasant reading.

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Can we take a moment to admire the gorgeous cover of this book? Death In the Details by Katie Tietjen was inspired by a woman considered a pioneer in forensic science, Frances Glessner Lee. According the Wikipedia, she created the “Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death, 20 true crime scene dioramas recreated in minute detail at dollhouse scale, used for training homicide investigators.”

With that in mind, check out the plot of this novel:

Maple Bishop is ready to put WWII and the grief of losing her husband, Bill, behind her. But when she discovers that Bill left her penniless, Maple realizes she could lose her Vermont home next and sets out to make money the only way she knows how: by selling her intricately crafted dollhouses. Business is off to a good start—until Maple discovers her first customer dead, his body hanging precariously in his own barn.

Something about the supposed suicide rubs Maple the wrong way, but local authorities brush off her concerns. Determined to help them see “what’s big in what’s small,” Maple turns to what she knows best, painstakingly recreating the gruesome scene in miniature: death in a nutshell.

With the help of a rookie officer named Kenny, Maple uses her macabre miniature to dig into the dark undercurrents of her sleepy town, where everyone seems to have a secret—and a grudge. But when her nosy neighbor goes missing and she herself becomes a suspect, it’ll be up to Maple to find the devil in the details—and put him behind bars.

I love the premise of this book. I’m always looking for books with plots I haven’t seen before and this one gave me something new. I enjoyed it!

Out now.

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WOW! It was a great historical mystery that made me met the mother of forensic science, read about how she worked. There's also a well plotted and solid mystery I thoroughly enjoyed
Highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher for this ARC, all opinions are mine

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Thanks to Crooked Lane Books for an advanced copy of Death in the Details.

This was such an interesting mystery. I loved the setting in Vermont just after WWII too. Knowing this has inspiration from a true crime this was a great debut!

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Set immediately post WWII, this is a great start to a (probable) cozy mystery series! Inspired by Frances Glessner Lee's dollhouse crime scene dioramas, our main character, Maple, is a whip-smart, highly trained woman in a world that was trying to shove women back into the homemaker role. This tension echoes through the book and gives it a little bit of an edge that most cozies don't have. The mystery is pleasantly twisty and the characters are fun. I look forward to seeing more of Maple in the future.

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The novel, apparently a debut and first in series, is narrated in third person, past tense, entirely from the point of view of one Maple Bishop. The first woman to graduate from law school in Boston, she and her husband Bill moved to the small town of Elderberry in Vermont; where he would take over as town doctor from the man through whom the two had met years before, and she would…be the town doctor’s wife.

This life is not the freedom Maple had worked so hard to earn, but it is the 1940s, and needs must: her mother is dead, her brother is dead, no one will hire a woman lawyer, and this is a way to leave the Boston slums where she grew up, and where she lost everyone she’d loved, behind.

Three years later, a recently widowed Maple is facing not just poverty again, but homelessness. Her law degree is useless in a town with one law firm and many misogynists, and after the payoff from Bill’s life insurance is swallowed by his debts, she finds hope in the one thing she’s devoted her focus and passion since moving to Vermont: she can sell some of the many dollhouses she has completed, and perhaps get enough custom orders to support herself.

Again not the stuff dreams are made off, but Maple needs to earn money in a hurry, she doesn’t have any other means of earning money, and people seem interested, so it’s a case of “little to lose. plenty to gain”.

That is, until she finds a body, and things spiral out of control with a quickness.

Beware: death of a sibling; death of a spouse; sexism; disability; racism; domestic violence; suicide; PTSD; copaganda.

The opening scene, where Maple learns of her precarious financial circumstances, is heartbreaking; the gleeful callousness of the same lawyers who had refused to hire her years before may be read as slightly cartoonish if one didn’t see it all around us in real life.

But this scene also starts developing Maple’s character as someone who is not just an outsider–the urban woman with professional aspirations who didn’t fit in the small town social circles she was expected to navigate–; not also someone who finds herself utterly alone in the world, having lost every person she has loved who loved her back; but also different from what women were expected to be and behave.

Whether the author meant to or not, several of Maple’s personality traits resemble ADHD and/or autism. She has a photographic memory, which has set her apart her entire life, at the same time that it helped with her studies and her escape from poverty; she also tends to hyperfocus to the exclusion of things like food or sleep. She feels things deeply and struggles to regulate her emotions; she often says exactly what she thinks or sees–leading her one friend to tell Maple that she’s “too honest”—which doesn’t make her the easiest person to like; and she has difficulty parsing and reacting appropriately to other people’s emotions.

“People were exhausting. It occurred to Maple that she had engaged in more interpersonal relations in the past week than she typically did in a month, and she longed for the solitude of her house, where her only company was the stray cat who required only food and the occasional pat.” (Chapter 19)

When the police are quick to declare the death either suicide or accident, Maple’s legal training and her photographic memory of the scene lead her to discard either as the truth, and she recreates the death scene as a miniature, in the hope that it will help her work out what actually happened.

Maple’s experiences with cops have never been what one would call the Mayberry’s Andy Griffith ideal. Instead, those encounters reflect the reality of what most people who actually come in contact with cops in “professional” settings experience: callousness towards victims and a generalized sense of aggressive disdain for “civilians”, especially those who are poor and/or marginalized by society–never mind the whole “protect and serve” bullshit.

So while it enrages her sense of justice, it is not a surprise when the sheriff essentially threatens her with jail if she makes waves over Elijah Wallace’s death: the man was hated by most of the town, he was a wife beater and a cattle killer, and they are all better off with him dead. On top of which, the death certificate signed by the medical examiner says it was an accidental death: case closed.

Things should end there; however, for reasons of his own, Deputy Ken Quirk pushes Maple to find out what actually happened. He is convinced that they can eventually convinced the sheriff to reopen the case.

“His eyes shone with the fervor of the optimistic and the unjaded. Had she ever looked like that? Had she ever felt that level of righteous conviction that justice would prevail? That people were inherently good?” (Chapter 9)

The events of the novel happen inside a week, and while there is an underlying feeling of tension and urgency the entire time, at the same time that the narrative seems to never hurry, somehow reflecting the slow pace of life one expects in a rural time in the middle of the 20th Century. Also, having donated her late husband’s car tires to the war effort years before, Maple walks everywhere; going back and forth between locations, to deliver her dollhouses, to have conversations with people, and so forth. In fact, she only uses a telephone twice in the book.

The small rural town setting is very convincing; there’s enough physicality to it–how long it takes Maple to walk from her to there, how the density of houses and the presence of businesses as opposed to fields and barns, etc. changes depending on where she goes, and so on–to make it tangible, and there’s enough regarding the social mores and class distinctions, including racism, to make it real.

Part of the sense of danger stems from seeing everything exclusively from Maple’s point of view, and she is acutely aware of how much of an outsider she is. She understands many of the most obvious rules of small towns, such as how her refusal to play the gossip game with wives’ leader Ginger Comstock made her an outcast of Elderberry’s ‘society’, but she’s acutely aware of how much she doesn’t know about the town, including long standing feuds, friendships, and other personal relationships, and how these intersect with the murder.

Then there’s the fact that she still needs to earn enough to support herself; she’s behind on the mortgage and facing eviction, and her new business venture depends entirely on the town’s good opinion of her–which she has already mostly lost.

One of the best parts about this book is that while Maple is quite certain of herself when it comes to facts, she’s constantly interrogating herself when it comes to her interpretation of those, allowing newly found information and evidence to change her mind, so that her theories fit the facts, rather than trying to force the facts to fit a preconceived conclusion.

“Uncoovering the truth didn’t always result in satisfaction or vindication. Often, it seemed to make the seeker more miserable, more jaded, than he’d been when he’d set out. And yet.” (Chapter 31)

This flexibility of mind extends to other aspects of Maple’s personality, in the form of a certain insecurity in how she relates to people–she does find them exhausting, because their behavior is always open to various interpretations, and finding which one is the truth (I.e., the intention behind expressions, words, and actions), is never straightforward for her.

When given an opportunity to given an interview for a “feel good/human interest” story, Maple isn’t sure whether she should take it and run, or not, and her internal struggle makes her not just relatable, but human.

“Angela Wallace had been impressed with Maple’s initiative, and so it seemed was the young reporter. But by leaning into her dollhouse making, was Maple truly making a name for herself as an independent business woman? or what she settling for what society expected and allowed for her?” (Chapter 21)

Most of the other characters are less well rendered, not because of a lack in the writing, but because they are all seen exclusively through Maple’s eye, and we’ve already established that she struggles with persona interactions. However, it’s worth mentioning how as she spends more time with both Kenny and Ben, the widowed, half-Japanese owner of the hardware store where Mabel displays and sells her dollhouses, she sees them more clearly over time, and so does the readers.

Aside: Ben is the only non-white character in the entire book; as the setting is Vermont (the second whitest U.S. state), this makes sense. It also makes sense that there’s quite a bit of passive-aggressive racism directed his way, not the least because of Japan’s role in WWII.

The other side of this is the inevitable creeping copaganda, as eventually Maple’s fact finding persuades even the callous sheriff to the truth.

I would not call this a fair play mystery; while most of the facts needed to solve the mystery are presented to the reader as Maple finds them out, there is a final key piece of information that reeks of Deus Ex Machina. Still, the climactic scene is quite thrilling, and the denouement after it is really very satisfying.

Maple grows a lot in the space of that eventful week, and learns to let go of some of the survival reflexes of her childhood and youth, as well as some of her grief, opening herself to more people in a way that feels organic and sustainable. There is even a hint of a potential romantic relationship with Ben, and Maple’s own social position in town is now secure, based entirely on merit and not on her marriage.

I really enjoyed Death in the Details, and hope that we see further novels about Maple and Elderberry. 8.50 out of 10.

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3.5 Stars

One Liner: A decent start to a series

1946, Vermont
Maple Bishop is stunned to discover that her doctor husband, Bill, left her almost penniless after his death. WWII has taken a lot from her, and she could lose even her home if she didn’t find a way to earn money.
Creating miniature houses (dollhouses) has been her passion (obsession) for a long time. Maple realizes she could turn it into a source of income. After all, no one wants to hire a woman despite her lawyer degree. Things take another turn when Maple’s first customer is found dead. The police call it suicide, but she cannot ignore the feeling that something is not right.
As Maple recreates the crime scene, in the nutshell, she decides to investigate the case and find out more. Can Maple succeed?
The story comes in Maple’s third-person POV.

My Thoughts:
This is a debut book and the first in the series (I couldn’t find the series title anywhere) inspired by the real life of Frances Lee Glessner, the woman famous for replicating miniature crime scenes with exact details.
I googled Frances before starting the book and realized there are many books available about the cases she solved. The book is only inspired by Frances, so Maple’s character stands on her own, has a backstory, and everything.
The blurb reveals a bit too much. One part of it doesn’t occur until 50%, so editing out the last paragraph to remove these details might be better.
The book is less than 300 pages and has a decent pace. It starts slowly (not surprising) but gains momentum as we settle into the narrative. There are enough scenes about dollhouse-making for the page count. I don’t need an introduction manual anyway.
Maple is a complex character. She is socially inept and brisk. She has many unresolved traumas and holds on to the past very tightly. She is also judgmental and not easy to like. Yet, I found that the character arc was decent (if not relatable). She realizes a few things and tries to take corrective steps. So, the way she handles the clues and solves the crime in a way aligns with this arc. (This may not work for everyone as it affects the mystery)
Apart from the mystery, the book focuses on personal tragedies, trauma, grief, PTSD, domestic abuse, etc. The beginning section, especially reads more like historical fiction. The mystery enters afterward.
The book has a neatly tied-up ending with a detailed epilogue of sorts. It can be a series (as mentioned in the blurb) or limited as a standalone.

To summarize, Death in the Details is an interesting read, even if it didn’t wow me. I would be willing to read the next book in the series.
Thank you, NetGalley and Crooked Lane Press, for eARC. This review is voluntary and contains my honest opinion about the book.

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I received a complimentary ARC copy of Death in the Details, A Novel by Katie Tietjen from Net Galley and Crooked Lane Books in order to read and give an honest review.

…This book was a unique, well written and cleverly plotted cozy mystery which had it all, an amazing protagonist, quirky cast of characters and a wonderfully twisty mystery that reaches a satisfying conclusion...

In this debut from author Katie Tietjen, we meet War widow Maple Bishop who is no stranger to grief, growing up in the rough parts of Boston, she lost her mother, her brother years before and now her husband has died serving his country. Longing for a fresh start, the newlyweds had moved to a small town in Vermont, before deploying he worked as a small-town doctor and she was unable to get a job to utilize her law degree and not quite fitting in the small-town social circles stayed at home. When her husband dies during the war other than her good friend Charlotte, Maple has never felt so alone. Just when she believes things can’t get worse, she is informed by her lawyers that all but twelve dollars of her husband’s insurance policy has been eaten by debts accrued by her husband, not charging patients who were down on their luck. With a measly twelve dollars to her name, she doesn’t know how she will pay her mortgage. Her only solace is found in creating her miniature detailed doll houses with miniature dolls depicting happy comfortable lives. Through her grief she becomes obsessed with them and can’t seem to stop herself, as they take over her home. While picking up supplies at the local hardware store the owner, who has become a friend, offers her a place in front of the window to set up a table for her to set up shop both building them and selling, hoping it will help her and help bring business into the store. A deal is struck, and she begins the next day. When she meets the wife of the town bully, she can’t help but see the bruises so when she asks Maple to recreate her childhood home, Maple agrees, promising to deliver it to their home in a few days. On the scheduled evening, she goes to deliver it to the rural farm, but she feels something is wrong. There is no sign of life at the farm. Knowing they were expecting her she searches the property only to find the husband strung up to the rafters and the wife nowhere in sight. Shocked at the discovery she calls the police, but as she waits her mind does what it does best, and “find what’s big in what’s small” her focus falls on all the little details of the crime scene. While the apathetic police and the medical examiner are quick to declare the death an accident, Maple with all of details etched in her memory can’t believe the case has been closed and needs to figure it out by recreating the crime scene. Building it like she would a doll house she recreates the crime scene in a nutshell and begins weeding through the discrepancies convincing herself that the man’s death was murder. Armed with the nutshell she storms into the police station and presents her findings to the sheriff, but it just isn’t enough to convince him, and the case remains closed, and the death remains “an accident”. Not willing to stand for his apathy, she confronts him and is asked to leave the police station and does so knowing she has annoyed the sheriff too much. The next day an idealistic young deputy who witnessed her altercation with the sheriff believes her, returning the “nutshell” and together they begin to investigate the case quietly uncovering much more than they bargained for.
I absolutely loved the protagonist, Maple is well formed, her grief is palpable as is her honesty and tenacity. Even more impressive is that she is inspired by the real “mother of forensic science” Frances Glessner Lee, considered paramount to the first-of-its kind Department of Legal Medicine at Harvard University when the field of forensics was in its infancy. Lee crafted her intricately detailed miniature crime scenes called “Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death” used to train homicide investigators. This book was a unique, well written and cleverly plotted cozy mystery which had it all, an amazing protagonist, quirky cast of characters and a wonderfully twisty mystery that reaches a satisfying conclusion. I absolutely recommend it and I really hope there are future Maple Bishop books.

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This story was inspired by a real-life person, Frances Glessner Lee, who made miniatures of crime scenes to aid in investigations. It is set in the aftermath of WW2 in Vermont.

Maple Bishop has been left a war widow with no money, no job and a mortgage. She has always enjoyed making dolls houses and has rooms full of them, so when the idea comes up to try and sell them from a friend's hardware store she jumps at it. She is just starting to be successful when she delivers a house to one of her customers and finds him hanged. When she feels the police are not doing an adequate investigation she starts her own which includes building a dolls house of the crime scene.

The book was very well written and gave an excellent picture of the hardships of life immediately after the war. A really good example of historical mystery. Highly recommended.

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This book is the perfect example of “ it takes a village to write a story.” I was as fascinated and impressed with the author’s notes as I was with the book itself. Her commitment to making the heroine’s story come alive was amazing.Good choice on title too. Thanks to #NetGalley and #DeathinTheDetails for advanced digital copy.

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Death in the Details by Katie Tietjen

With a mother who loved dollhouses, had more than one of her own, and took me to see a famous one in Chicago AND a father who loved mysteries, suspense, and crime stories – How could I not read this book? Finding out this is based on a real person who made miniatures to solve murders and teach the skill to others is just an additional bonus. I am hoping this will be a series but haven’t found out yet if it will or not.

The setting is a small town in Vermont just after the end of WWII. Mable “Maple” Bishop finds out she has less to fall back on than she thought and will need to earn a living. Little does she know that her hobby of creating miniature dollhouses might lead to a very interesting future.

An argument overheard, a murder scene stumbled onto, and realizing she sees what others have not, she recreates the murder scene in a miniature “nutshell”. She then uses her mental skills, legal knowledge, her husband’s medical books and her belief in justice and finding the truth to the best advantage and uncovers more than she or anyone else thought she would.

This story reminded me of stories I had heard about the scrimping and saving, rationing, donating items needed for the war effort, victory gardens, loss, and other issues that were real when my parents were young. I felt a part of the story and loved meeting characters that I hope will show up in a future book. Will Maple and Ben continue to spend time together in his hardware shop? Will Charlotte have more children? Will Kenny grow into his own and perhaps take over the sheriff’s department from his uncle?

This had some darkness to it with the mention of verbal and physical abuse, black market smuggling, murder, fraud and other crimes but it also talked of purpose, joy, and moving forward in a positive manner even when times are not easy.

I am glad I read this book and would recommend it to those who enjoy historical fiction and cozy mysteries.

Thank you to NetGalley and Crooked Lane for the ARC – This is my honest review.

4-5 Stars

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Thanks to NetGalley and Crooked Lane Books for a copy of the e-book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

My Thoughts
Characters
I liked the characters-Mapel Bishop is the main character. She’s a widow that finds out her husband’s death leaves her destitute. A lawyer by training, she can’t find a job in her field because she’s a woman (the year is 1946), living in a small town in Vermont. She’s determined to make it on her own, but the only thing she can do is build dollhouses and the miniatures to make them lifelike. Then she discovers a body hanging from the rafters. Tiny details bother her, and she can’t ignore them because Maple has a strong sense of right and wrong, and a strong desire to see justice done. She’s a strong female character with a history of defeating the odds. She also has a prickly side to her, and it constantly alienates those around her, except for Charlotte.
Charlotte is her best friend. She has her hands full with three boys, and running diner with her husband, but she’s always there for Maple. Ginger Comstock is a thorn in Maple’s side.


Mystery
Maple finds a body hanging in a barn when she goes to deliver a dollhouse. She disagrees with the coroner’s ruling of suicide because small details bother her. She’s determined to find the truth. Kenny, one of the deputies, becomes her ally to find out the truth. The mystery kept me guessing until the end.
Final Thoughts
I really enjoyed reading Death in the Details. The characters are lively and engaging.
Mapel Bishop, the main characters, grows and changes throughout the novel. Watching her grow from a widow with what seemed to be insurmountable obstacles to a self-confident business owner. I was also drawn in by Mapel’s hobby of building dollhouses and furnishing them with miniatures she constructs herself. I’ve always found dollhouses and miniatures interesting, and this book didn’t disappoint. There is also humor throughout the book, which is always a plus.
The mystery kept me guessing throughout the book. The historical details also drew me into the novel. Overall, this debut novel is well-written, with complex characters, dollhouses and miniatures, and a mystery that kept me guessing until the reveal. I ordered a physical copy, and if there are more in this series, I will be reading them.
5/5 stars.

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This is a genius idea for a cozy historical novel. Set in post WWII Vermont, widow Maple Bishop is looking at total loss. She’s lost her brother, her mother and her husband, and, as the insurance company informs her in the opening chapter, she’s also broke. She has $12 to her name and no way to pay her mortgage. Her husband’s car has no tires (donated to the war effort) so she can neither drive nor sell it.

The only thing keeping her going is the construction of dollhouses. She can’t stop herself, and her garage workshop is full of the things, complete with dolls living perfect doll lives. When she goes into the hardware store to purchase supplies, the owner offers her a corner of it to set up shop. He thinks it will bring in customers, and the houses will look great in the window.

She agrees and wheelbarrows her things over the next day. Business starts with a bang as a couple want to buy a house made to look like the wife’s childhood home. Maple agrees, noting the bruises on the wife’s arm and the bullying ways of the husband. When she goes to deliver it a few days later she finds the man hung in the barn and the wife nowhere to be found. Shaken, she calls the police, but as she’s waiting to be questioned her mind goes to details that don’t seem right to her.

While the dollhouses have kept her occupied, as her best friend points out, they aren’t bringing her joy. Weirdly, what begins to bring her joy is the re-construction of the crime scene in dollhouse form. When she shows her “nutshell” scene to the sheriff, however, he says the case is closed and the death is ruled an accident. She does catch the attention of the young deputy, and the two of them begin to investigate together.

The frustrations of their investigation are many, as few believe a dollhouse lady and an extremely young deputy. Maple’s determination to “find what’s big in what’s small” and her, let’s say, single mindedness, won’t let her give in. It’s giving her life a purpose, something she desperately needs. She’s a wonderful character and I liked the partnership between her and the deputy, who has his own family wartime losses to deal with.

Maple is based on the real Frances Glessner Lee, who did in fact create crime scene dollhouses and was the mother of crime scene investigation. I liked the energy in this book and I loved Maple, who is absolutely fierce. She does reclaim a bit of joy by the end of the book though she’s still dealing with her loss. This was a truly unique combination of a craft-based cozy with a police novel. Wonderful debut.

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Maple Bishop is dealing with a lot of grief in this post WWII historical mystery. She lost her mother and brother and her husband leaving her alone. She also finds herself in Vermont after growing up in Boston. Things get even worse when she learns that her husband - a popular but not financially bright man - leaves her an estate of slightly less than $13 and with a monthly mortgage of just of $52 to pay.

Maple has been educated as a lawyer but can't find a job in that field. Law jobs are going to men and returning veterans. However, Maple is skilled at making miniatures - complex doll houses on a 1 inch to 1 foot scale - and sees selling them as a way to make some money.

Unfortunately, when she goes to deliver her first sale, she finds the buyer hanging in his barn. While the police and the medical examiner are quick to declare the death an accident, Maple who has a photographic memory sees quite a few discrepancies that lead her to think that the man's death was murder. But her painstakingly accurate miniature of the scene isn't enough to convince the paperwork-hating sheriff that a crime was committed.

Teaming up with Kenny who is a new deputy who just happens to be the sheriff's nephew, Maple begins to look into the crime against the sheriff's orders. And when the town's biggest gossip who has had numerous arguments with Maple disappears, Maple finds herself a suspect in the kidnapping. She's convinced the two cases are related but it takes her involvement in a dangerous situation to prove it.

I enjoyed this story. I liked the setting and time period. I especially liked Maple's determination to forge a new independent life for herself after all of her personal losses.

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Mabel “Maple” lost more than her physician husband during the war, but also her financial security due to his debts. When she discovers that she could lose her home as well, she decides to see if she can earn money by selling her intricately crafted dollhouses. But when she arrives to deliver the house ordered by her very first customer, she finds him dead, supposedly by suicide. That ruling doesn’t feel right to Maple, so she recreates the death scene – in miniature, determined to find out what actually happened.

This appears to be the author’s debut novel, but I hope it’s not her last. I do wonder about the title though, as the last line of the book’s description on Goodreads calls it Death in a Nutshell, and the “in a nutshell” phrase came up frequently in the text of the book. It would have been a fitting title, given the plot of the book. I like that the book was inspired by an actual person and wonder how much of that will hold true in coming books if this is turned into a series.

The small town setting was well done, although I have to wonder how many people here would have had the means and even the desire to purchase one of Maple’s dollhouses, especially after the novelty wears off. Is her business sustainable? I like Maple and her ability to notice details that others overlook. She remembers those details too, helping her construct her “in a nutshell” miniatures. She has a few friends she can count on to help, and there is a possible romance developing.

The murder victim was a very unpleasant person, so there were a lot of possible suspects with just as many possible motives. My mental list kept changing as the story progressed, but I did not nail down the killer until just before it was revealed in the book. The motive was what I thought it would be, but the solution to it all was more complicated than I expected.

Other than the Goodreads book blurb, there’s nothing to indicate that this is the first book of a series, but I hope it is. I would like to read more about Maple, her friends and her investigative abilities.

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Set in post war America, 1946, We meet Maple Bishop, who has been widowed. Her late husband, Bill, who was a physician, didn’t need to fight in the War, but went through a sense of duty, and she has realised that she is hard up. At the age of 31, she needs to pay the bills, find money for the mortgage or be thrown out of her home, and it galls her that despite been trained in Law, with a degree, she cannot find a job because she is a woman.
Life seems hopeless. An idea takes shape, her hobby is making dollhouses, intricate in details, materials, and accurate depictions of the occupants, perhaps she can make money by taking commissions from the local people. The local store owner, Ben Crenshaw, will let her sell the houses in his store, hopefully it will bring in more customers for them both.
One night, Maple is delivering an order to an isolated farm property, when she gets there, she notices that the barn door is open, investigates and finds the body of a man hanging from the hay hoist. The Sheriff thinks suicide, Maple believes it is murder, but the deceased was unpopular and there is a marked reluctance to open up an investigation into the death. Maple decides to make a dollhouse of the crime scene, so she can test her theories of murder before she presents her findings to the Police, but her endeavours uncover a web of lies, deception and corruption, that puts her own life and liberty at danger.
An absolutely fascinating read, loosely based upon the real life person of Frances Glessner Lee, who also used her skills of making replicas of murder scenes to teach and train officers at the National Police College in America, her models were so highly detailed and logical, as seen on line, the more you study them, the more questions are posed.
My thanks to Netgalley and the publishers, Crooked Lane Books for my advanced digital copy, freely given in exchange for my honest review.
A five star rating. I will leave reviews to Goodreads and Amazon UK upon publication.

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