As Elaine Orr’s Rekindling Motives opens, Jolie Gentil goes to the high school reunion in Ocean Alley, where she attended 11th grade, and she gets hired by former classmate Gracie Allen to perform an appraisal of the house she has just inherited from her grandmother. As the pair look through things in the attic, Jolie reaches into the closet and pulls out an old suit with a skeleton in it! The horror causes her to fall backwards and through the trap down of the attic and to the floor beneath. Gracie, already beneath her, manages to cushion Jolie’s head, but Jolie cracks her tailbone, getting her picture once again in the paper.
Everyone’s thoughts go to an old story that in 1929, Richard Tillotson escorted his sister down the stairs to marry Peter Fisher, tripping along the way and causing a fight between the two business partners. The newlyweds went off on their honeymoon, and two days later, people realized that Richard was gone, never to see him again. But maybe he now has resurfaced. Curiously, the skeleton is situated amid clothing from the 1940s and 50s. So if this is truly Richard’s body, what was it doing in the meantime?
This leads Jolie down a rabbit’s warren through the past. Finding the books for the bakery run by Peter and Richard in the late 20s, Jolie and her friends come to realize that the bakery was really a front for a bootleg business, making moonshine during Prohibition. She also discovers that Richard’s sweetheart, Mary Doris Milner, is not only still alive at 94, but very alert and living in Ocean Alley. Discovering what a delightful woman this former schoolteacher who had impacted so many lives is, Jolie gets her to reminisce about old times, learning that Mary Doris is certain Peter killed her Richard and never married out of faithfulness to Richard’s memory. Then, the next day, Mary Doris dies unexpectedly. Could there be a connection with the skeleton?
I really enjoyed the writing of this book. The characters are well-rounded, especially Jolie’s high school friend Scoobie, who has only recently gotten clean of drugs and alcohol and thus is learning to deal with life, and Jolie’s Aunt Madge. And even though we don’t get to spend a lot of time with Mary Doris, the love and admiration everyone around her feels for her transfers through to the reader.
My one dissatisfaction is the choice of murderer. But I can’t say more about that without giving away some plot points.
Paula Faye Leinweber provides strong narration for this book. I like her gentle voice that seems to suit the character of Jolie, the written narrator of the book. I felt I could picture the action as she read.
I also enjoyed the way the book works in poems written by the author’s husband, James W. Larkin, and father, Miles D. Orb.
Rekindling Motives kept my focus the whole way through, making me not want to put it down! I give it five stars!
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