In this mystery novel, somebody’s been killing the proprietors of a prestigious inn, and the newest innkeeper is determined to find out why before she becomes the next victim.
Doyle (The Infidelity Pact, 2008, etc.) is a self-described “foodie” and an avid cheerleader for the quaint village of East Hampton, New York, and she indulges both of these passions in this first installment of her new Hamptons Murder Mysteries series. Recently transplanted from California following a nasty divorce, 35-year-old protagonist Antonia Bingham has bought the Windmill Inn from the estate of Gordon Haslett, who died suddenly, apparently from a heart attack. An inventive, passionate chef, Antonia has just reopened the inn’s restaurant when she learns from two of her regulars, Len and Sylvia Powers, that the circumstances surrounding Gordon’s death were suspicious. Worse, he wasn’t the first owner of the inn to experience an untimely death. Now, strange things are happening to Antonia—someone removes a stepladder while she’s installing a light bulb, someone locks her in a supply closet, and more. Her new buddy, Joseph Fowler, a 60-something widower, joins in the amateur sleuthing as they try to sort out the possible motives of a multitude of suspects; Gordon, they discover, was universally disliked. Doyle is an enthusiastic guide for Long Island’s East End village; she details each street and shop, the spectacular beaches, and the unique play of sunlight that has been a siren call to artists for more than a century. She also gives readers plenty of opportunities to vicariously indulge in every mouthwatering bite that Antonia and her restaurant patrons consume—especially if the item is loaded with butter, sugar, or some other comforting dietary no-no. Doyle also pays careful attention to housing décor, wardrobe selections, and the hairstyles of every character, which perhaps stems from her experience as a screenwriter (Intern, 2009). The generally smooth prose maintains a gentle pace, although there are one or two unnecessarily awkward lead-ins, such as “an odd incident occurred that unnerved Antonia and once again gave her pause about her own mortality.” The dinner-table gathering of suspects isn’t an original device, but it’s fun and satisfying nonetheless.
An appealing, three-dimensional heroine and some clever plot twists make this an enjoyable, quick read.