Sue Henry highlights her latest heroine, Maxine “Maxie” McNab, in The Tooth of Time, published by Penguin Books LTD, copyright 2006.
Having spent most of her life in Homer, Alaska and having lost her first husband, Joe Flanagan, to a fishing accident and her second husband Daniel McNab to cancer, Maxine McNab buys herself a thirty-foot Winnebago motor home, loads up her miniature dachshund Stretch, and heads out to see the world.
At this point, author Sue Henry takes us on a tour of the many parks, rivers, highways and monuments of the United States, and the emotions they bring to sixty-three year old Maxie and her little dog Stretch. At one point they stop at the famous St. James Hotel in Cimarron, where the famous Kit Carson, Annie Oakley, Buffalo Bill Cody, Jesse James and Bob Ford (the man who killed Jesse,) Billy the Kid, Pat Garret and Doc Holiday had all been reported to have stayed there, which is evidenced by the twenty-two bullet holes that still remain in the hotel’s tin ceiling. This sort of archaic history, breathtaking monuments and mountains, some of which Ansel Adams thought worthy of photographing, is just what Maxie had been yearning for. One particular rock monument she would love to see had been named “The Tooth of Time,” by “nobody knows who.” As she looks in the mirror, she feels a psychological connection to the name and the person who first called it that.
Age is creeping up on her and she realizes she has lived half of her life. So, Maxie and Stretch hit the road and eventually make a stop in Taos, New Mexico, where she sought out a shop she had heard of called Weaving Southwest. There she meets Pat Dozier, the owner and general doer-of-whatever-needs-doing-next person. In Alaska, Maxie had always worked at knitting, crochet and needlework, but never weaving. So Pat gives her a tour of the shop and warehouse. She is awed by the beauty and textures, as well as the rugs and tapestries that line the walls.
This is where the author gives many pages that will inform and educate us on the makings of spinning yarn, dying, weaving, assembling a loom and many other things involving textiles. I’m halfway through the book, there have been no murders, and I’m wondering why this book was classified as a “murder mystery?” Very suddenly, Sue Henry shifts from textile tutorial to dead bodies found in a huge dying vat that was on a tour of a facility Maxie was invited to; “Betty Sullivan’s Dye Plant.”
Maxie runs into Butch Stringer, who was a long distance trucker whom she had met in Homer, AK, and rekindles an old friendship that had ended when Butch ran his truck off the road on the Al Can Highway and nearly lost his life and his legs. Their friendship brings youth to their worlds.
Another death occurs. This time it’s Shirley Morgan who is a well-known weaver and has been suspected of attempting suicide before, only to live through it and claim she had never tried. Yet she nearly asphyxiated in her own car while sitting in her garage. Maxie lets her stay in her motor home while she recovers from monoxide poisoning, and then she disappears. The next thing anyone knew, Shirley was dead in her own bathtub, though things didn’t add up.
After being contacted by a Lieutenant Herrera, she calls Butch for moral support and to figure out how these two murders are connected. Shirley, while staying with Maxie, had confided that she had been conned out of one-hundred thousand dollars by a man she believed she could trust. Anthony Cole had convinced her that the one-hundred thousand dollars would purchase a site that was ideal for a new textile mill and warehouse.
After Shirley disappeared from Maxie’s motor home, Maxie comes home to find that someone had torn the place to pieces, as if they were looking for something. When Shirley left she took everything she had brought with her. Maxie and Butch could not figure out why the place had been torn up for and nothing appeared to have been taken. Butch takes her to dinner one night and they come back to find a note saying to “give us what we want and we’ll give your dog back”. The question is raised; can you call it kidnapping when the victim is a dog?
I give great praise to Sue Henry and her unique writing style. She gives us the grand tour of the four corner states and their wonderful monuments, roadways and towns. She then treats us to an education on weaving and the textile market in the Southwest. Definitely worth reading this surprising novel.
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