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A Martha's Vineyard Mystery
By Philip R. Craig
Scribner, June 2005 ($24.00)
Reviewed by Cherie Jung
I've always been a fan of vacationing at resort or popular tourist areas in the off-season. Ski resorts in the summertime, ocean beaches during winter storms, and cozy harbors just after the Christmas holiday season. So I was especially looking forward to Philip R. Craig's latest Martha's Vineyard mystery since it is set in the off-season after Thanksgiving.
J.W. Jackson is a retired cop living on Martha's Vineyard with his wife and two kids. Tourist season isn't quite over yet. The last of the tourists don't leave until after New Year's day, but things are winding down a bit. Deer hunting season is on. The autumn weather is pleasant. Jackson is looking forward to the quiet months, both of them, January and February, when the last of the tourists return to the mainland until the next tourist season begins in late March or early April.
The family is settling in for the coming winter when Joe, a long-time friend and old Vietnam buddy, unexpectedly asks Jackson for help -- no questions asked. He wants Jackson to smuggle him back onto the island. He's trying to avoid being the next victim of a killer tagged "the Easter Bunny." Naturally Jackson wants to help his buddy but not at the risk of putting his family in jeopardy. It's a balance that Jackson may not be able to maintain.
The author has written nearly 20 Vineyard mysteries. This is the first one I've read. I've seen copies of earlier books in the series but refused to read them for a personal reason that now seems trivial, especially since I enjoyed this book so much. Now I need to go back and read the others in the series.
One thing I really admire about Craig's writing style is his knack for characterization. I felt that I'd known these characters for years, after just reading a couple of pages. He writes with what I would call a breezy, conversational style. That's not a very technical way to describe it, I suppose, but fairly accurate. Once you start reading, it's like being met by old friends for lunch and then setting off on an adventure together.
The book stands alone. If you haven't been reading this series, you can start with this book.
Two other things. There are recipes at the back of the book, which I won't be trying, by the way, because my husband is allergic to shellfish and alcohol (as in wine) and there is a map of the island at the front of the book.
I heartily recommend this book.
For a list of titles in the Martha's Vineyard series, please click here.
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