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by Philip R. Craig
Scribner, May 2005
256 pages
ISBN: 0743246772

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

VINEYARD PREY is the latest in Philip R Craig's series of mysteries set on Martha's Vineyard. In this one, JW Jackson is enjoying the comparative peace and quiet of Martha's Vineyard in the off-season when Joe Begay, an old buddy and fellow islander, asks him for help.

Joe, it turns out, does hush-hush jobs for an unnamed government agency; a number of his colleagues from a particular covert operation are turning up dead. He has reason to believe that the killer is a terrorist assassin with the code name "the Easter Bunny." Since he cannot turn to his employer for help, Joe enlists JW

I have to admit to being skeptical about the success of a mystery novel that involves spies, contract killers, a character called the Easter Bunny, the scalloping industry, New England natives, tourists, and recipes, but somehow Craig makes it all work. VINEYARD PREY employs the first-person narrative which can be a problematic literary tactic.

JW Jackson is a surprisingly likeable protagonist. Craig's casual style of writing is both engrossing and also relaxing. JW may be up to his neck in booby-traps and car bombs, but he's also busy doing Christmas shopping and supplementing the family income by harvesting scallops. The laid-back explanation of Vineyard geography and tradition make the book appealing to a larger audience.

VINEYARD PREY falls down slightly with some of the details. No matter how dangerous an assassin as he is supposed to be, it is inherently difficult to take a figure referred to as the Easter Bunny seriously. JW's ignorance of the Internet and certain technologies appears to be a series trademark but seems rather forced in its execution.

JW aside, most of the characters are a little two-dimensional. Joe's last remaining colleague, a female agent, would not be out of place in a James Bond film. The book would have been stronger had Craig given his characters some more depth. However, as it is, VINEYARD PREY makes for an enjoyable read. Even if thrillers are not your normal cup of tea, this is worth a look.

Reviewed by Michelle L. Zafron, June 2005

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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