The plot is so fantastic that reviewing it is going to be a bit of a tip-toe but I'm going to try to explain why I'm such a cheerleader for this one without giving it away.
First there's the setting: Matinicus Island is the furthest out of Maine's populated islands with an official population of about 50. It is not someplace one just drops in for an afternoon of sightseeing. The families who live there are close-knit, often related, and depend almost entirely on lobstering for their income and each other for their survival. There's a single general store, a unisex barber/hair dresser, some satellite dishes, an assortment of unregistered and unlicensed objects that pass for transportation devices, numerous dogs of unknown parentage, no local law enforcement, no doctors or lawyers, (there are two EMTs), and sporadic plane, boat and ferry service (when the fog is lifted) between the island and "America."
Then there are the characters:
- A disenchanted teenaged girl (is there another kind?) who is waiting for the mother who abandoned her 10 years ago to return.
- The hard working couple who run the island store/restaurant/bar/post office, etc etc, etc. She doubles as the EMT.
- A visiting college professor on sabbatical, who is ostensibly counting trees and cataloging orchids, but who in reality is hiding out from his latest disastrous sexual conquest.
- A raucous assortment of crusty, hard-drinking lobstermen...boat owners, sternmen, and wannabes.
- A ghost who is haunting the 1799 residence where the college professor is staying.
- A drop-dead gorgeous widow(?) who arrives in her gazillion $$ yacht with an unquenchable libido, a propensity for sunbathing au naturale, dancing on pool tables, and whose wealthy husband has apparently fallen overboard on the way.
These propel an incredible plot:
The college professor finds an old diary in his haunted house detailing the massacre of passengers of a shipwreck off the coast, the love life of the original occupants of the house, and some other details that can't be revealed here without giving you the whole enchilada.
The local lobstermen are in the midst of a "lobster war" - a snarling fight over territorial rights that periodically breaks out in violence as locals try to keep those "from away" out of their perceived private fishing grounds. Although the State law allows anyone with a license to fish anyplace in Maine waters, the Matinicus population has tended over the years to ignore that little piece of legality and enforces its own brand of island justice to repel the outsiders, who often find their expensive traps have suddenly "gone missing." At the time of this story, there's a full-scale dust-up a-brewing.
At the same time the professor arrives, all hell seems bent on breaking loose, and dead bodies keep appearing...usually found by said professor. Is he responsible? Are they related to the lobster wars? Is there a serial killer loose on the island? How come the ghost seems so agitated?
Throw in some good old fashioned Maine foul weather, some very crusty and rough language, some fairly explicit sex scenes, a little pot, a lotta booze, and you've got a rip roaring, page turning tale.
Then top it off with an absolutely "I never saw that one coming!" ending, and we have here a winner! This is being sold as the first of the Island Mystery series, (and includes the opening pages of the next installment). I certainly hope Ms Scott can follow through, because it's going to be hard to follow this one!
Author: Darcy Scott
Publisher-Format: Turtle Pond Press, Maine Authors Publishing, trade paperback, 247 pages
Year of publication: 2012
Subject: double murders, ghosts, island justice, lobstering
Setting: Matinicus Island Maine 1829 and 2005
Series: Island Mystery Series #1
Genre: Mystery - amateur sleuth
Source: review copy from publisher
Many thanks to the publisher for making a review copy available.