To Helvetica and Back (Dangerous Type)
by Paige Shelton
Cover Artist: Anne Wertheim
Review by Mel Jacob
Berkley Mass Market Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780425277256
Date: 05 January 2016 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
The debut of Paige Sheldon's new mystery series A Dangerous Type begins with To Helvetica and Back. Fixing an old typewriter for a friend, Clare discovers some numbers etched on the key bars. A stranger demands the typewriter, but she refuses and calls the police. However, when the stranger turns up dead, Clare and her grandfather become suspects.
Clare Henry and her grandfather Chester run The Rescued Word, a typewriter repair and stationary shop, in Star City, Utah. Chester is an avid skier and Star City is noted for its nearby ski trails. Clare loves repairing old typewrites and working with the Gutenberg style press Chester built. They restore old books, including printing missing pages.
Mirabelle Montgomery, Chester's long-time friend, brings her old Underwood No. 5 in for repair. The 'L' key sticks. Clare puts the machine in the workroom to fix later. Her niece Marion who's minding the store, calls for help. A stranger asks about the No.5 and demands she sell it to him. She refuses. Meanwhile, Marion overhears and calls the police. The man leaves when he hears a siren.
Worried the man might return, Clare makes sure all the security cameras are operating, but she also finds Chester has been searching for information on pancreatic cancer. He has always claimed to know nothing about computers. Now she adds his health to her worries.
For Clare the 'L' key is an easy fix, but while doing the repair, she finds mysterious numbers etched on the key bar. That task finished, she goes on to use Chester's press to print a replacement page for a first edition of Tom Sawyer. Tired, she falls asleep and doesn't wake until morning.
When Clare checks the security system, she and Chester discover that sometime during the night someone killed the stranger and left him in the alley behind the shop. Neither Clare nor Chester have alibis.
The characters are interesting and the mystery is solved by close cooperation between Clare and the police. Sheldon provides plenty of information on the town, its surroundings, history, the local silver mining activities, and typewriters. Overall, the narrative almost seems padded at times. The danger to Clare is more imagined than real.
Other mystery series by Sheldon include the Country Cooking School Murders, five in all, and the Farmers' Market Murders, a total of six.