Former cop Jack Stratton takes a case in his parents’ gated community in this installment of Greyson’s (And Then She Was Gone, 2016, etc.) mystery series.
Jack had planned to spend a few days with his father and mother, Ted and Laura Stratton, at their Florida home, where he planned to finally introduce them to his longtime girlfriend, Alice Campbell, in person. Unfortunately, Lady, Jack’s 120-pound king shepherd dog, becomes a last-minute traveling companion, as the proposed kennel they’d chosen turned out to be rather dismal. But there are rules at the Strattons’ gated community, Orange Blossom Cove, including a requirement that dogs must always be leashed. This isn’t always easy to do with Lady, which peeves the Strattons’ neighbors. Jack’s vacation seems to be over before it starts when Laura, along with her book-club pals, insists that he help stop the Orange Blossom Cove Bandit, who’s responsible for a string of recent thefts. After the bandit attempts to burgle the Stratton house, Jack agrees to look into it, if only not to disappoint his mother. Alice, meanwhile, wants to make a good impression on her boyfriend’s parents, so she takes part in a ladies’-night stakeout with Laura and her local friends. But while questioning community residents, Jack uncovers evidence of a breaking and entering at the home of a recently deceased man whose lethal heart attack may have actually been murder. Soon other dead bodies turn up, and the desperate killer’s next target may be someone close to Jack.
Greyson’s mystery is relatively lighthearted thanks to a motley bunch of diverting characters. Laura’s friends are particularly amusing, as when they concoct a scheme to catch the bandit red-handed that entails doing something that’s not entirely legal. (Jack later refers to the women as “the Golden Girl Commando Squad.”) Lady, too, is a fully developed character; the colossal canine is generally used as comic relief (as when it seemingly blames Jack for its time in a cargo hold), but she’s also fiercely protective. There are occasional comic antics, as when Jack learns the hard way that Ted’s story about a wild gator tromping through the community is true. But there are plenty of serious subplots, as well, including a side mystery involving Alice’s late parents. Despite the often humorous tone, though, one villain, whose identity is revealed early, is quite menacing. The real puzzle for readers is who this baddie’s collaborator is; also mysterious is the true importance of the stolen items. The mystery’s solution employs an intriguing mix of strategies: Jack professionally sets a trap for the bandit, but the book club’s relatively amateurish investigation actually produces some fruit. The narrative is predominantly taken up with light banter, but Jack is shown to be a keen observer, as well: at one point, for instance, he peruses an “immaculate and orderly” room, specifically noting the arrangement of objects and the lack of pictures on the wall.
A mystery with a sharp protagonist whose appeal is matched by that of the characters surrounding him.