In A Veiled Deception, Madeira Cutler, a designer with a top New York firm, solves the murder of Jasmine Updike, the former study partner of her sister's fiancé, who is trying to get him back. In A Veiled Deception [ISBN 978-0-425-22640-7], Madeira Cutler, who has been working as a designer in a prestigious New York City design firm [but may be getting tired of it], is called home to Mystick Falls, CT, by her father, to help plan her younger sister's wedding. Madeira [aka Maddie], the eldest of four children, is returning with her best friend Eve Meyers, her friend since kindergarden. Eve has been living with Madeira in New York City. Madeira's mother died when she was ten. Her father, a supposedly otherworldly professor of English literature [Maddie says he “…lives on the planet Academia…”, never remarried, so Maddie grew up being the mother to her three younger siblings. Her brother, Alex, is an FBI agent, her sister Brandy is away in the Peace Corp and “the baby”, Sherry, a kinder garden teacher, is getting married.
Click here to see the rest of this review
Madeira knows that, of all her accomplishments, she has two major gifts. One is a passion for fashion: fabrics, designing clothes and handbags and other accessories. Another is the ability to “tune into” people who are no longer in this life. In particular, when she handles vintage clothes or fabrics, she visualizes the people who wore them – an ability called psychometry. She inherited this gift from her mother who said she should never tell other people, because they would not believe her. The woman who had been her mother's best friend, a lawyer named Fiona Sullivan [Madeira and her siblings call her Aunt Fiona] also has this gift.
Sherry is engaged to Justin Vancortland, son of the richest man in town. While Justin's father “Cort” is generally considered to be a lovely man, his mother, Deborah, is universally acknowledged as the town snob: haughty, pretentious, and overbearing. Deborah has “decided” that Sherry will wear the “Vancortland wedding dress” which has been worn by five Vancortland brides.
Shortly after Madeira's return to Mystick Falls, there is an engagement party at the Cutler home for Sherry and Justin. The “cake lady”, Amber Delgado, who has recently opened a bakery in town, is passing out miniature wedding cakes she has baked. Hordes of friends and family are there: Aunt Fiona, Nick Jaconetti [FBI agent, friend of brother Alex's, and Madeira's on-again, off-again special squeeze], Madeira's friend, Eve; an elderly female neighbor, Miss Sweet, and, of course the Vancortlands. Surprisingly, the Vancortlands bring with them Jasmine Updike, a former study partner of Justin's. Jasmine appears to have Deborah Vancortland wrapped around her little finger; Deborah is paying much more attention to her than to the soon-to-be bride, Sherry. It is clear that Jasmine is trying to snare Justin away from Sherry and, from the looks of things, she may be succeeding. Jasmine is universally disliked in town.
At one point during the party Madeira realizes that Sherry is missing. With a sense of foreboding, she goes upstairs to the bedroom floor. Since Sherry's room is empty, Madeira looks into Brandy's room. As she opens the door she sees a magnificent, antique wedding gown hanging from the mahogany wardrobe door – the Vancortland wedding gown. The windows are open but the screens are not pulled down; the curtains are flapping in the wind. Madeira smells a scent she recognizes – Jasmine's fake Opium perfume. As she walks around the bed she sees Jasmine lying on the floor, as if she's fallen in a graceful faint. Except for one thing. The veil to the wedding gown is tied tightly around her throat.
Detective Sergeant Lytton Werner [he and Madeira have had a “love/hate” relationship since the third grade] heads up in investigation. Sherry is, of course, the prime suspect, although she is not charged.
Since Sherry has agreed to wear the Vancortland wedding gown, Madeira has her try it on to see if alterations are needed. As Madeira passes her hands along the dress, her chest tightens, she feels dizzy, and white spots pass in front of her eyes. “When the malaise passed, I saw a different bride wearing the same gown. In Sherry's place stood a gorgeous woman with porcelain skin, black magic eyes, and raven hair, whose stance revealed humility…” The woman had “work-ravaged” hands. Madeira is frightened by her first experience with this phenomenon – called psychometry.
Three women, the woman in Madeira's vision [named Pearl Morales], Deborah Vancortland, and Deborah's friend from her finishing school days, Mildred Updike, hold the keys to Jasmine's murder. Pearl is the daughter of Cort's old nurse; Pearl and Cort grew up together and fell in love. They wanted to marry, but were “dissuaded”. Pearl, who was pregnant at the time, returned to her family in New Orleans. Deborah, convinced Cort to marry her by telling him that she was pregnant. After their marriage, while Cort was away on a business trip, she asked her friend Mildred, who was by now a nurse, to attend her during a supposed miscarriage. However, Deborah had never been pregnant and the “miscarriage”, which Mildred attested had occurred at home, had never happened.
After Pearl moved back to New Orleans, she never married. She changed her name to Delgado, and had Cort's daughter, who she named Amber Vancortland Delgado [ultimately the Cake Lady”]. From the moment of Amber's birth Pearl imbued her with the intense bitterness and venom she felt towards the Vancortland Family. When Amber saw the wedding announcement, she went to Mystick Falls determined to kill the bride.
Jasmine Updike, daughter of Mildred, learned about the fake miscarriage and was blackmailing Deborah. Because of the supposed “love” between Deborah and Jasmine, and because Sherry was nowhere to be seen during the party, Amber thought that Jasmine was the bride. She killed the wrong woman.
Ultimately, both Maddie and Eve decide not to return to New York City. Maddie decides to stay in Mystick Falls and open “Vintage Magic”, a store that will sell both vintage clothes and new clothes of her own design.
Also, it seems that she and Nick will do just fine
Best part of story, including ending:
STORY I liked the story because it was “a good read” -- very well written, humorous, poignant -- and because of the descriptions of high fashion [dresses, shoes, handbags, hats] that are interspersed throughout the story.
Best scene in story:
In my favorite scene, Nick, who has stayed overnight in Madeira's suite in the Cutler home [although on the couch] is trying to leave the house without waking her father. As luck would have it, her supposedly, otherworldly father has been up for hours, and has already gone out for muffins for everybody's breakfast. As Nick is trying to sneak out, Madeira's father says “What's the matter, Nick…you didn't want to climb out Brandy's window?” [as Nick had done years before]. Maddie thinks “So the bait sat down to eat with the shark,…”
Opinion about the main character:
I like Madeira Cutler because she is smart, loving, devoted to her family and friends, and is passionate about her work as a designer.