A mystery with a sharp protagonist whose appeal is matched by that of the characters surrounding him.



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.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2017


Page Count: 260

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 1, 2017

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The years pass by at a fast and steamy clip in Blume’s latest adult novel (Wifey, not reviewed; Smart Women, 1984) as two friends find loyalties and affections tested as they grow into young women. In sixth grade, when Victoria Weaver is asked by new girl Caitlin Somers to spend the summer with her on Martha’s Vineyard, her life changes forever. Victoria, or more commonly Vix, lives in a small house; her brother has muscular dystrophy; her mother is unhappy, and money is scarce. Caitlin, on the other hand, lives part of the year with her wealthy mother Phoebe, who’s just moved to Albuquerque, and summers with her father Lamb, equally affluent, on the Vineyard. The story of how this casual invitation turns the two girls into what they call "Summer sisters" is prefaced with a prologue in which Vix is asked by Caitlin to be her matron of honor. The years in between are related in brief segments by numerous characters, but mostly by Vix. Caitlin, determined never to be ordinary, is always testing the limits, and in adolescence falls hard for Von, an older construction worker, while Vix falls for his friend Bru. Blume knows the way kids and teens speak, but her two female leads are less credible as they reach adulthood. After high school, Caitlin travels the world and can’t understand why Vix, by now at Harvard on a scholarship and determined to have a better life than her mother has had, won’t drop out and join her. Though the wedding briefly revives Vix’s old feelings for Bru, whom Caitlin is marrying, Vix is soon in love with Gus, another old summer friend, and a more compatible match. But Caitlin, whose own demons have been hinted at, will not be so lucky. The dark and light sides of friendship breathlessly explored in a novel best saved for summer beachside reading.

Pub Date: May 8, 1998

ISBN: 0-385-32405-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1998

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A flabby, fervid melodrama of a high-strung Southern family from Conroy (The Great Santini, The Lords of Discipline), whose penchant for overwriting once again obscures a genuine talent. Tom Wingo is an unemployed South Carolinian football coach whose internist wife is having an affair with a pompous cardiac man. When he hears that his fierce, beautiful twin sister Savannah, a well-known New York poet, has once again attempted suicide, he escapes his present emasculation by flying north to meet Savannah's comely psychiatrist, Susan Lowenstein. Savannah, it turns out, is catatonic, and before the suicide attempt had completely assumed the identity of a dead friend—the implication being that she couldn't stand being a Wingo anymore. Susan (a shrink with a lot of time on her hands) says to Tom, "Will you stay in New York and tell me all you know?" and he does, for nearly 600 mostly-bloated pages of flashbacks depicting The Family Wingo of swampy Colleton County: a beautiful mother, a brutal shrimper father (the Great Santini alive and kicking), and Tom and Savannah's much-admired older brother, Luke. There are enough traumas here to fall an average-sized mental ward, but the biggie centers around Luke, who uses the skills learned as a Navy SEAL in Vietnam to fight a guerrilla war against the installation of a nuclear power plant in Colleton and is killed by the authorities. It's his death that precipitates the nervous breakdown that costs Tom his job, and Savannah, almost, her life. There may be a barely-glimpsed smaller novel buried in all this succotash (Tom's marriage and life as a football coach), but it's sadly overwhelmed by the book's clumsy central narrative device (flashback ad infinitum) and Conroy's pretentious prose style: ""There are no verdicts to childhood, only consequences, and the bright freight of memory. I speak now of the sun-struck, deeply lived-in days of my past.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1986

ISBN: 0553381547

Page Count: 686

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1986

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