|Jaymie Leighton and her sister Rebecca share their parent’s nineteenth-century yellow brick home in Queensville, Michigan. on the Canadian border. Rebecca spends her weeks in Ontario looking after their grandmother and running a china pattern replacement business. The girls share their love of, and appreciation for, all things vintage, though Becca is more interested in fine china and Jaymie in kitchenware and cookbooks, things that housewives used every day in times past.
When the two women attend an auction, Jaymie falls head-over-heels in love with an intact 1920’s Hoosier cabinet, complete with its meat grinder and spice jars. Becca protests that there isn’t room for one more thing in their “junk” filled kitchen, but Jaymie doesn’t pay her any heed and bids on, and wins, her treasure. She also buys a box of sewing implements and trims when she overhears two other bidders saying they need to find the button that is worth a lot of money.
Jaymie’s delight with the cabinet is short lived when she wakes to a loud noise during the night and finds a dead man on her Hoosier which is sitting on their summer porch, boxes of the women’s purchases tossed about, some things broken. The sisters have no idea who the dead man is, nor do the police, but there are a lot of tourists in town as the town is about to celebrate Queensville’s Victorian Day with their Canadian neighbors, in honor of Queen Victoria’s birthday.
While Jaymie and Becca get caught up with their roles in Victorian Day, Jaymie is still bothered by the break-in and murder, feeling that the murderer is still in town, looking for the mysterious, valuable button. Jaymie begins to poke around to see what her Hoosier might have to do with the murder. But in the process she hits some nerves and finds that she may be the next one on the block….the chopping block this time, instead of the auction block.
Fans of vintage kitchenware and those who fondly remember grandma or mother’s Pyrex dishes will find a lot to enjoy in this mystery. Jaymie has an affection for old-fashioned domestic things and enjoys using the things that many hands before her used. She has also collected and assembled vintage recipes into a cookbook that looks like it will be published, much to Jaymie’s delight. Becca is fifteen years older than her sister and often plays mother hen, but commuting to Ontario and their grandmother takes a lot of Becca’s time as she realizes Jaymie is old enough, and capable enough, to take care of things in Michigan.
Jaymie doesn’t have a steady job, though she does do some odd jobs and is very clever parlaying her love of vintage into income producing ventures. It doesn’t seem as if she earns enough money to maintain her house and support her habit though she does appear to live comfortably. Jaymie has a very good heart and is kind to everyone, even her ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend. There are several good suspects for the murderer, cleverly hinted at early on and searching for the identity of the murder victim adds to the well-plotted investigation.
A Deadly Grind is a pleasant first mystery with a good setting spanning two countries, an enjoyable, if somewhat out of focus heroine, and plenty of lore about the domestic arts in the first part of the twentieth century.
--Jennifer Monahan Winberry