A NICE LITTLE BEACH TOWN by E.C. Ward

A NICE LITTLE BEACH TOWN

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The ""nice little beach town"" is White's Bay, California, where narrator-hero Chandler Cairns--a 40-ish teacher of high-school English--has lived for years, renting an apartment from old Norwegian fisherman Sven (""Finn"") Finster. But then, suddenly, Finn is dead, found adrift in his boat, fatally shot by the gun in his lap. Suicide? Cairns thinks not, especially since Finn's prot‚g‚--rich teen-ager David McIan--is acting very strangely, as if he knows pretty much how Finn died. Moreover, Cairns finds a fortune in cocaine hidden in Finn's kitchen, while the old man's will suggests other motives: significant legacies in money and land for a bovine daughter (married to a Neanderthal thug), a ne'er-do-well son. . .and Cairns himself, who's arrested after killing Finn's brutal son-in-law in self-defense. So the teacher must turn sleuth to save his own skin, and his investigation leads, very foreseeably, to secret land-development plans (young David is the scion of the town's top realty/construction clan)--and a fiery finale. There's one nice wrinkle here: the key clue is a list of seemingly unrelated names that bewilders amateur-detective Cairns. Otherwise, however, this is only a modest improvement over Coast Highway 1 (1983, as ""Elizabeth C. Ward"")--with routine plotting, standard characterization, and macho-sentimental narration that's often cliched and occasionally ludicrous in its amateurish attempt at a lean, fragmented style. (""And Finn. In his seventies. Built like a banty cock. Feisty. Strong. All nerve and muscle except the eyes. Sea-blue. Set in deep Viking bones. Blond hair turned white. Lots of it. Hands too big for his body. Calloused. Tough as leather. Gentle as cat's fur."")

Pub Date: April 17th, 1989
Publisher: St. Martin's