Marie (The Single Shoe Mystery, 2014, etc.) and debut author JHC’s series mystery follows a yachting family from Canada to the British Virgin Islands.
One year after witnessing a murder on a luxury yacht, Janeva Jag; her husband, Thomas; and their 12-year-old daughter, Katie, face new dangers at sea. The victim’s widow has offered the Jags and their friends Greg and Steph Writeman a vacation in the British Virgin Islands aboard her three-cabin catamaran, the Joie de Vivre. But a series of break-ins, creepy stalkers, and frustrating yacht club politics quickly turn their dream vacation into a nightmare. When another one of Janeva’s acquaintances turns up dead, she decides to investigate—at her own peril. The titular Chatterbox Chip is named for the crime scene, Chatterbox Falls in the Princess Louisa Inlet in Canada, and for a graphene microchip that Katie wears on a necklace. The use of minutiae to heighten the drama is part of the story’s charm, and the sailing details, in particular, are shipshape. On a boat, says Thomas, “Life becomes a matter of weather, gusts, squalls, currents, waves, the set of sails, the distance to a port”—and all of these factors are used to great effect to hinder or help an escape. In one nail-biting scene, Janeva and Thomas are looking for a private place to divulge a secret but are thwarted at every turn. There are also funny moments, as when Thomas dismisses an island police officer who takes the family’s statement and, in response, receives an unforgettable lecture. Each character comes with an entertaining back story: Janeva, for example, runs a custom bag tag business called Jag Tags, and her dyslexia gives her a unique perspective when solving crimes; Thomas runs a 3-D printing business with a top-secret new product; and Katie turns her outdoor adventures into an extraordinary report for school. Their friends the Writemans donate their time to Doctors Without Borders and other organizations, and friends Trent Braise-Bottom III and his late wife, Wiffy, get points for their names alone.
This novel’s dazzling setting, meticulous plotting, and entertaining characters make for a pleasant voyage with danger at every port.