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by Francine Mathews
Soho Crime, June 2017
274 pages
ISBN: 1616957379

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Meredith (Merry) Folger is a third-generation cop on Nantucket Island. She is not, however, the new police chief; she took herself out of the running for several reasons, not the least of which is that she considers herself not qualified for the position. Then there is her upcoming marriage to a local cranberry farmer, a daunting prospect if only because of his family connections. The new top cop is from Chicago and he is very obviously "not from around here," as evinced by his demeanor and his by-the-book style of leadership. Merry isn't sure she wants to work for him and she does have options. Not however, at this moment. It's the week of the Fourth of July and Nantucket is being overwhelmed by tourists and all the ills that come with such an influx. Anyone living in a tourist Mecca will know what Merry has to deal with.

Her job is upended when a body is discovered at the home of a famous local celebrity. Spencer Murphy is a journalist made famous by his first book, the story of his escape from a prison camp in Laos after the end of the Vietnam War. His adopted daughter is found dead on the roof walk of his house and she's been dead a long time. The first question is pretty basic: suicide or murder? Before that question can be answered definitively, there is another murder. The entire family is on scene for the second crime (which is a first thought to be an accident). The family brings the word "fun" to "dysfunctional" - any family with murder(s) involved usually does. As Merry tries to sort out all the possibilities and family issues, her chief is on her back almost non-stop. Her respites are brief, and bring some of her personal life to the story.

Mathews has a keen eye for family relationships and the damage that poor parenting can do, as well as for the moments that can save a relationship and keep it going. Her love of Nantucket is obvious; the descriptions are lovely and bring the island to life. The island itself is not vital to the story, although it does give some insights into the various inhabitants and why they feel as they do about the place. Mathews' take on tourists who treat the island as their personal party place is spot on and will resonate for those who are year-round inhabitants of any place like Nantucket. The characters are well-developed and behave as one would expect them to do, given their build-up and situation. The walk-ons are just as solid as the main characters. The story is complex, well-plotted, and believable. This is the fifth Merry Folger mystery and a good one it is.

§ I have been reading and reviewing mystery fiction for over a quarter of a century and read broadly within just about all genres and sub-genres. I have been a preliminary judge for the Malice Domestic/St. Martin’s Press Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Contest for at least 25 years. I live in Northern lower Michigan with my spousal unit, one large cat, and 2 fairly small dogs. My Sherlockian (BSI) nom-de-plume is VR; my license plate is BSI VR

Reviewed by PJ Coldren, May 2017

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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