While reviewing lists of recently
published mysteries with a historic home renovation setting, I came across Mary
Kay Andrews’s The Homewreckers. I had read and enjoyed Kathy Hogan
Trocheck’s Callahan Garrity mystery series, and once I realized the witty and
articulate former Atlanta Journal Constitution reporter writing women’s
fiction was Trocheck using a pen name, I plunged into The Homewreckers.
It’s a great read, combining
a cold case murder with present day evidence found at a home renovation site.
Adding to the zaniness of filming an HGTV-type demo reno show is a substantial
subplot involving the intrepid main character’s love life. I would have
preferred more crime scene investigation and fewer flirtatious scenes over a
whipped cream-topped brownie, but Andrews makes it all work.
I love the humor in
Trocheck’s Atlanta-based House Mouse mystery series, particularly her main
character’s interactions with her cleaning service employees. In The
Homewreckers, Andrews creates a memorable cast of construction workers with
a low tolerance for the meddling TV filming crew.
Main character Hattie
Kavanaugh is a thirty-something widow, involved up to her hardhat in historic
home renovations in Savannah. With the assistance of her family and close
friends, Hattie buys a nearby Tybee Island cottage at a town auction and starts
renovating it with the assistance of a TV producer and “designer.” Hattie is on
a tight timeline, struggling to meet the demands of local zoning and building
codes as well as the TV show’s producer. The usual construction
surprises—rotten pipes, jerry-rigged electrical wiring, and termites—are dwarfed
when Hattie and her crew find a body on site. Hattie, with the assistance of a
local police detective, succeeds in solving what went wrong for the victim.
Hattie has a passion for
restoring historic Savannah buildings to their former glory:
“…what I love best about my job is walking through an old house.
Touching it, wondering about its past, listening to it, and then figuring out
how to bring it back to life again for a new family…Sometimes we work months
and months on a house, slogging through the nasty stuff, replacing old pipes,
ripping out knotty pine paneling from the sixties and gross bathrooms, and it
feels like you’ll never get it all done. Then, one day, the plaster’s patched
and painted, and we switch on a crystal chandelier I found in a junk shop, and
bam! It feels like I’ve won the lottery. And I forget all about the sweat and
tears and rat poop.” (p.41)
Andrews knows the details of
filming a home renovation show, displays her affection for Tybee Island, and
throws in a credible mystery compelling enough to keep readers engaged. The
Homewreckers is a thoroughly enjoyable summer read. I hope Andrews helps
Hattie find another potential gem to renovate, perhaps with less interference
from a TV crew.