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Rinker on Collectibles: More Antiques & Collectibles Cozy Mysteries

by Harry Rinker (08/06/13).

Antiques Disposal (Trash ‘n’ Treasures Mysteries)

My good friend Jane Cleland introduced me to the world of cozy mysteries, and since the summer reading season isn’t quite over, I thought you, gentle reader, might find some of these antiques-and-collectibles-related stories worth cracking.

Cozy mysteries have 10 main criteria: (1) the crime-solver is usually a woman amateur sleuth, often with a college degree and who is intuitive and bright; (2) takes place in a small town or village; (3) the heroine’s boyfriend, husband, significant other or close friend is usually a medical examiner, detective or police officer; (4) the local police do not take the amateur sleuth seriously; (5) the heroine’s hearing is exceptionally good, especially in terms of overhearing casual conversations; (6) the demise of the victim is quick, often off scene, and occurs early in the story, often in the first or second chapter; (7) the tone is gentle—no graphic violence, no profanity, and no explicit sex; (8) sex occurs behind closed doors (implied but never described); (9) the story is fast-paced with many twists and turns; and (10) emphasis is on plot and character development.

More than half a dozen authors have created female amateur sleuths who are involved in one aspect or another with antiques and collectibles. Barbara Allan’s Brandy (daughter) and Vivian (mother) Borne own an antiques shop, as does Tamar Myers’s Abigail Timberlake. Jane Cleland’s Josie Prescott is the principal in an appraisal, auction and tag sale enterprise. Sharon Fiffer’s Jane Wheel is a picker who occasionally helps at estate sales. J. B. Stanley’s Molly Appleby was a reporter for Collector’s Weekly. Lea Wait’s Maggie Summer is an antiques print dealer who works the show circuit. All these characters appear in numerous titles. Unfortunately, Stanley’s Molly Appleby has retired and Sharon Fiffer’s Jane Wheel is on hiatus. Both amateur sleuths are missed. The good news is that the titles in the Appleby and Wheel series are available in paperback.

Being friends with an amateur sleuth can be hazardous to your health. Neighbors, relatives and business associates die far more often than total strangers. Little wonder the local police departments do not like these amateur sleuths. Their residence in a community is bad for its crime statistics. When J. B. Fletcher finally left Cabot Cove, Maine, it was a miracle any townsfolk survived.

Antiques Disposal” (2012) and “Antiques Chop” (2013), the sixth and seventh Barbara Allan titles from “A Trash ‘n’ Treasure Mystery” series, and I wrote about them a couple of years ago when I devoted a column to antiques and collectibles cozy mysteries. Both are published by Kensington Books. “Antiques Disposal” is available in hard and soft cover. “Antiques Chop” is only available in hard cover. Barbara Allan is a joint pseudonym for Barbara and Max Allan Collins, a wife-and-husband writing team.

Allan writes in a conversational story-telling style. While most of the chapters feature Brandy’s side of the story, Vivian now receives between one and one and one-half chapters per book to test her insights. Conversations between daughter, mother and their editor and antiques and collectibles collecting tips at the end of each chapter add to the enjoyment.

Allan’s chatty, easy-to-read stories are set in Serenity, a small Mississippi River town. Although the novels are chronological, like most cozy mystery series, each is a stand-alone read. “Antiques Chop” does begin with a “Cast of Characters,” adapting a practice of mystery writers such as Erle Stanley Gardner.

Cozy mysteries are usually set in the present. “Antiques Disposal” is a story involving the contents of an abandoned storage unit. “Antiques Chop” involves Brandy and Vivian’s potential participation in a reality television program. For more information about these and other Barbara Allan “A Trash ‘n’ Treasure Mystery” titles, go to the Max Allan Collins website, click on “Books,” scroll down to Barbara Allan, and click on a title.

Lethal Treasure: A Josie Prescott Antiques Mystery (Josie Prescott Antiques Mysteries)

I am in love with Josie Prescott, something my wife Linda does not mind since Josie is a fictional character. Jane K. Cleland’s “Lethal Treasures” is the eighth “A Josie Prescott Antiques Mystery,” all published by Minotaur Books. I read Cleland’s Prescott mysteries in one sitting. Once I start, I cannot put the book down.

The novels have a lyrical, wistful quality. The characters have become family, although I continue to be regret that Josie’s current beau, now working for Homeland Security, contributes little to the murder solutions.

An antique or antiques group plays leading role in each Prescott mystery. While the stories are fictional, the objects are not. The same holds true for Josie and her staff’s appraisal, auction and tag sale practices. The Prescott novels offer trade insights it takes years to learn in the field.

In “Lethal Treasures,” Josie purchased a storage unit filled with Depression era glassware and a fabulous piece of jewelry. Rival dealer Henri Dubois purchases a storage unit containing a stash of hand-painted silent movie posters. Henri’s failure to return home after dropping off the posters at Josie’s gallery for appraisal, once again forces Josie to solve another murder in Rocky Point, Maine. For more information about this and other “A Josie Prescott Antiques Mystery” titles, visit her website.

Poison Ivory (A Den of Antiquity Mystery)

Tamar Myers, whose “A Den of Antiquity Mystery” series numbers 16 titles, is the dean of antiques and collectibles cozy mystery writers. How I missed these titles in the past is beyond me. The good news is that I found them. I just finished reading “Poison Ivory” (2009) and “The Glass Is Always Greener” (2011), the 15th and 16th titles in the series. The series is available in paperback from Avon, an imprint of HarperCollins.

I was delighted to find a synopsis of each of the previous titles at the end of both books. I read them first to familiarize myself with the principle characters of Abigail Timberlake Washburn, who owns an antiques shop in Charleston, S.C., and her mama, Mozella. Whereas Barbara Allan’s stories suggest a lazy southern style, Myers’ Abigail is Old South aristocracy. It took this “northern boy” a few chapters to get caught up in the atmosphere. Once done, Abigail and Mozella became as familiar as the characters in Allan’s, Cleland’s, and Wait’s mysteries.

In “Poison Ivory,” Abigail is accused of importing illegal ivory. In “Tthe Glass is Always Greener,” Abigail travels with Roby, a dealer friend, to Charlotte to visit his Aunt Jerry, described on the back cover as a “crazy, caustic old gal,” whose mock wake turns out to be the real thing. There is a sense of finality in the last chapter, suggesting that Abigail may be retiring from the amateur sleuthing business as did Molly Appleby a few years ago. Do not miss the opportunity to read the full series while the novels are in print. For more information about these and other “A Den of Antiquity Mystery” titles, visit Myers’ website.

Shadows at the Spring Show: An Antique Print Mystery (Antique Print Mysteries)

Lea Wait’s “An Antique Print Mystery” series took a brief hiatus after “Shadows at the Spring Show,” the fourth title in the series. Thanks to Perseverance Press/John Daniel Company, the series was revived with “Shadows of a Down East Summer” (2011). “Shadows on a Cape Cod Wedding” (2013) is the latest title.

Lea Wait, as well as her main character, Maggie Summers, is a print dealer. Each chapter begins with the description and value of an antique print. Wait weaves the print or its theme into the chapter. The series is set along the east coast from New Jersey north into New England. Obviously, “Shadows on a Cape Cod Wedding” is set in Cape Cod.

Wait writes in an easy-to-read, third person conversation style. Like Cleland, Wait’s novels are hard to put down once I begin reading. While antiques and collectibles are scattered throughout the stories, Maggie’s friend Gussie owns an antiques shop, they are peripheral to the plot.

In “Shadows on a Cape Cod Wedding,” Maggie is in Cape Cod to serve as maid of honor for Gussie’s wedding. Two murders, a hurricane and an antiques obsession advance the story. For more information about this and other “An Antique Print Mystery” titles, visit Wait’s website.

Josie and Maggie are single. Brandy is divorced. Abigail is divorced and remarried. Ex-boyfriends and husbands flow in and out of the storylines. The cast of supporting characters have fascinating back stories, which develop as each series progresses.

Read all the titles in these series. I promise you hours of enjoyment.


P.S.: In the course of preparing this column, I encountered several other antiques and collectibles theme novels outside the cozy mystery genre. I will share them with you in a subsequent “Rinker on Collectibles” column.


Rinker Enterprises and Harry L. Rinker are on the Internet. Check out Harry’s Web site.

You can listen and participate in Harry’s antiques-and-collectibles radio call-in show “Whatcha Got?” on Sunday mornings between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. Eastern Time. It streams live on the Genesis Communications Network.

“Sell, Keep Or Toss? How To Downsize A Home, Settle An Estate, And Appraise Personal Property” (House of Collectibles, an imprint of the Random House Information Group), Harry’s latest book, is available at your favorite bookstore and via Harry’s Web site.

Harry L. Rinker welcomes questions from readers about collectibles, those mass-produced items from the 20th century. Selected queries will be answered on this site. Harry cannot provide personal answers. Send your questions to: Rinker on Collectibles, 5955 Mill Pond Court SE, Kentwood, MI 49512. You can e-mail your questions to harrylrinker@aol.com“>harrylrinker@aol.com. Only e-mails containing a full name and mailing address will be considered. Please indicate that these are questions for WorthPoint.

Copyright © Rinker Enterprises, Inc. 2013

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