Book Review: Death on Nantucket by Francine Mathews @FMathewsAuthor @soho_press

Death on Nantucket
A Merry Folger Nantucket Mystery #5
Francine Mathews
Soho Crime, June 2017
ISBN 978-1-61695-737-7
Hardcover

Spencer Murphy is a Pulitzer prize winning foreign correspondent. The book that won him his fame tells of his escape from captivity in Laos during the Vietnam war. He made millions on his books and television appearances in subsequent years. But he is sinking into dementia, and is reported missing by his family.

He lives alone is a big house in Nantucket with only a housekeeper who comes in during the day. His adopted daughter Nora, who has been living in Asia, turns up for a visit and is discovered dead a month later on the rooftop deck. Spencer’s two sons, David and Elliot, haven’t heard from their sister in years, David is a recently divorced lawyer who continually criticizes his twenty-something daughter Laney.

Elliot and his partner Andre are the target of homophobic barbs from David and occasionally even from Spencer when his dementia tightens
its grip.

When Nora’s body is discovered, police detective Merry Folger investigates. It’s either suicide or an accident, the preliminary investigation shows. Nora has ingested enough apricot seeds in a cup of coffee that she died of cyanide poisoning. Merry’s boss is still convinced that it’s not murder, and he seems to have it in for her—after all, his predecessors as chief of police were Merry’s father and grandfather. Also, It’s high tourist season Nantucket with thousands of drunken college students invading the island and the police force is spread thin. But before the investigation concludes, there’s another death in the family and there’s no doubt that this time it’s murder.

Not quite a locked room mystery but a traditional mystery with a limited pool of suspects. There’s an abundance of description and backstory, sometimes too much, and it slows down the plot. While the culprit is discovered, there are enough red herrings and smart plotting to make it a surprise. It’s the fifth book in the series.

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, January 2020.

Book Review: Out of the Wild Night by Blue Balliett @BlueBalliett @Scholastic

Out of the Wild Night
Blue Balliett
Scholastic Press, March 2018
ISBN 978-0-545-86756-6
Hardcover

Nantucket was settled by strong folks willing to work hard and, maybe more importantly, together. Of course, how else could a human take down a whale and make use of the entire animal? There is no reason for mainlanders to come to the island, and if not on a hunt, certainly no cause to leave. Living like this creates a unique bond, a bit stronger than even the tightest of communities.

Even generations after whale hunters, with tourists crossing over to visit and fantasize about a slow-paced, small-town lifestyle—which is simply the surface—the ties held tightly. And to be fair, it isn’t as if everyone eventually leaves the island. Rather, the spirits of so many souls seem to find solace in the homes built so long ago and still standing today.

The islanders, for the most part, are content to cohabit with the ghosts. Admittedly, most adults ignore, instead of acknowledge, their presence; but the children and the elderly are often wide open.

To Phee, her mother and grandfather; the spirits are no different than the living. The family treats them the same way—as they would wish to be treated. Although Phee’s mom has been on the mainland for some time now, she and her grandfather have been getting by just fine, minding their own business. Until they couldn’t.

A contractor has come to town and he has dollar signs in his eyes. Blissfully buying up old and cherished homes, gutting them only to fill them with cheap, modern amenities; he doesn’t notice that his actions are anger-inducing. Pranks in and around his work areas quickly morph into more dangerous sabotage-style attacks. Workers are injured. Still, he is not getting the message. Even with Mary Chase doing her best to bring it to his attention.

Mary is frantically reaching out to everyone around, to no avail. She worries that the folks of Nantucket no longer need the spirits of their ancestors. Then she remembers Phee and her grandfather. Soon, Mary has the help that she needs, but will it be in time to calm the ghost-culprits?

Ms. Balliett kept me captivated, guessing…and second guessing, in this Middle-Grade, ghost-story mystery. Easily evident is her admiration and adoration of Nantucket and I enjoyed learning about the island and its people.

Reviewed by jv poore, March 2019.