Worth Staying Up For

Book Review

A BONE IN HER TEETH

A St. Augustine Mystery

Ann McCallister Clark

Infinity

2011

With a scrap of her family’s fortune, doled out by her brother, a greedy attorney, the widowed Anna Wells heads for Florida, planning to sell the house her aunt left specifically for her. Leaving the wintry winds that blow off Lake Michigan, it seems a timely gift, perhaps profitable. But when she discovers the house floats on water at a marina populated by quirky individualists, she is unwittingly, but quickly, drawn into a new way of life. She finds a job working with a prominent seller of used books, right up her alley. That there has been a murder at the marina is a bit alarming, but perhaps not quite as alarming as the attention given her by the ex-cop who lives on the boat next to hers. She also begins to suspect there was something intriguing in her aunt’s past. Then there are two more unexpected deaths, and her new friends seem less reliable.

At first glance, this is a cozy with a good dose of travelogue. St. Augustine is a distinctive locale, lacing the free-spirited boating life of coastal Florida with 18th century flavors. While Anna’s days are spent researching rare volumes and fending off book thieves, in an environment of cobblestone streets, colored by local sisters who drive tourists around in carriages, her evenings include impromptu gatherings aboard her converted barge, deepening friendships among diverse strangers, and a growing awareness of the natural wildlife at the mouth of the St. Sebastian River. Alone, she begins to wonder about the mysterious vessel that has slipped into one of the berths and the man on deck who watches everyone through dark glasses, and if warnings from a local fortuneteller are pure entertainment – or not.

Psyche-probing backstories, intriguing information, and high quality descriptive prose raise this novel above the predictable and recreational pop-mystery. The author is a resident of St. Augustine and a bookseller.

 

Book Review

BIG SICK HEART

A Detective Seagate and Miner Mystery

Mike Markel

BooksForABuck.com

2010

I’VE JUST DISCOVERED Mike Markel, an apparently modest man who works as Director of Technical Communications at Boise State University, Idaho. I am not sure what that means, but I do know that he skillfully inserted valuable information about both stem cell research and enlarged hearts in a police procedural that is about as humanistic as it could be. Karen Seagate is a seasoned investigator with baggage often attributed to detectives who have seen too much in life. Divorced and estranged from her teenage son, she is caught between teary moments, usually fueled by Jack Daniels, playing the role of tough cookie, making up for her small size.  Her new partner, Ryan Miner, is a Mormon, married, two kids, and sweet. He is learning more from Karen than he probably bargained for.

The energetic plot centers on the murder of the head of Soul Savers, a large organization with a mission to stop stem cell research. The victim, Arlan Hagerty, left more than one suspect: a wife who stands to take over the helm; a friendly opponent he had debated publicly; a powerfully good friend in a state senator; and a young assistant, female, who was obligated to him for taking her off the streets and into his bed.  What is confusing to Karen and Ryan is that the senator is helping to fund Soul Savers while taking bribes from a pharmaceutical company that is underwriting research dependent on stem cell supplies. Could she have been blackmailing him?  Motives of  the others emerge as they are interrogated by a funny, but unrelenting, Karen.

While there are a couple of instances where minor characters say more than is natural to move the plot forward, and at least one red herring, the main dialogue is brilliantly conceived to build and refine the characters, and it is clever and entertaining even while probing the dark soul of police work.

 

Leave a Reply

  

  

  

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>