Mystery writer D’Avanzo (Demon Spirit, Devil Sea, 2017, etc.) is back on the coast of Maine, dealing with a bunch of lobstermen who want no truck with nosy outsiders.
In the very first chapter, marine biologist and amateur sleuth Mara Tusconi discovers a body under her cousin Gordy Maloy’s mussel aquaculture raft, a body that had belonged to lobsterman Buddy Crawford. Whodunit? Mara soon finds herself on Macomeck Island, a speck in the Gulf of Maine about 25 miles off the coast. Lobstermen have lived on the island for generations, and something akin to the law of the frontier holds sway. Mara, who is fighting her own demons of loneliness and insecurity, finds comfort in grandmotherly Abby Burgess. Abby’s daughter Patty, Gordy’s girlfriend, is sure that the killer is hotheaded Tyler Johnson, reputed druggie. But Mara keeps sniffing around and uncovering old wounds, grudges, and hatreds. There are also very vivid scenes such as a near catastrophe when a sudden squall threatens to swamp Mara’s sea kayak. Pushing on, she begins to recover from her own wounds (some self-inflicted), and the final episode in a submersible with her old flame, Ted McNight, may just put her life back on course. It should also be mentioned that her best confidant is a lobster named Homer, (who of course is very discreet). D’Avanzo writes well (“The knots in my stomach would have made a sailor proud”) and delivers a nice mix of Mara’s outer challenges (who killed Buddy?) and inner (will she ever find love?). She also delivers a lot of very interesting facts about oceanography and marine biology, having earned a Ph.D. from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. That alone is worth the read. She switches to dialect when she deems it appropriate (“lobstah,” “habah,” “remembah”). Some readers may find this charming; others may find it a bit tiresome and distracting. This installment contains a preview of her next Mara Tusconi mystery, Glass Eels, Shattered Sea (2019).
Anyone interested in a good mystery along with insights into marine life will enjoy D’Avanzo’s latest.