Pros: Fantastic ‘feel’ of the slow, meandering rural Maine lifestyle; some wonderful touches
Cons: Some of the appeal definitely depends on your tastes; main character seems too naive and inexperienced; mild sense of cheating
Rating: 3 out of 5
Jane Bunker moved to Maine from Miami, leaving behind her life as a cop in the big city. Leaving crime behind, however, isn’t nearly so easy—and perhaps she doesn’t want it to be, either. Green Haven is such a small town that there isn’t enough work in one job to keep her busy, so she wears two hats: that of insurance investigator and deputy sheriff. Thus it is that a routine investigation into a bit of fishing equipment sabotage for the insurance company somehow snowballs into a series of larger investigations. There’s a missing fisherman who might have committed suicide, a dead body, a feud over aquaculture and fishing grounds, and a burgeoning local heroin trade. And somehow, it seems there may be connections between these problems.
It’s a relatively simple plot without too many twists and turns and without a ton of chase scenes or other action sequences. This is definitely a mystery meant for someone in just the right mood, or a particular kind of reader. That is to say, it has a slow, meandering pace that reminds one of the very sort of rambling conversation one might have when talking to a relaxed person from a small town in rural Maine. It includes a great deal of detail about how each fishing- and boat-related task is done, and walks its way stoically through each part of every day, whether detailing a near-fatal accident at sea or a thought-filled drive down a country road. Most of the story consists simply of Jane’s internal monologue as she observes her new home and surroundings and tries to unravel the events going on around her. If you’re at least as interested in the fishing village details and the ‘feel’ of rural coastal Maine as you are in the mystery, I think you’ll find this stuff fascinating; if you’re looking for something at the ‘thriller’ end of mystery, however, that definitely isn’t this book.
The peek into life among Maine’s fishing communities is fascinating. The details regarding lobster fishermen, their families, and the ways in which ‘outside’ concerns such as drugs begin to encroach upon the countryside are very real. I love many of the characters, such as the quirky young lady at the coffee shop. I adored a scene in which Jane—instead of being the stereotypical model-lovely woman who has men falling all over her—realizes that the two men she’s spending time around are each trying to set her up with the other one!
Unfortunately, the law enforcement end of the story doesn’t hold up as well. Jane is supposed to be a big-city cop, but she comes off as naive and amateur. She keeps believing the best of everyone even when you want to shake her and point out what seem like obvious inconsistencies, suspicious coincidences, ridiculous scenarios, and so on. Then, both the author and Jane cheat: when she does figure stuff out she ‘hides’ it from the reader, despite the fact that we’re supposedly experiencing an interior monologue of her thoughts as she has them. I found myself being frustrated with her for not noticing or figuring something out, only to find out later that she had, but simply hadn’t let the reader in on it.
In addition, well, without giving too much away, let’s just say the bad guy did a couple of all-too-convenient things in the finale that were straight out of Cartoon Villainy 101.
I’m very divided on this book. The material on the local community and the very unusual voice in which the story is told are absolutely fantastic. They give it a highly unusual feel and it’s really nice to read something new. If the suspense and law & order parts matched it for quality, the author would seriously have something here; hopefully she’ll continue to improve with further books.