Argyle (Arrest Me: Before I Write Again, 2011) transports readers to No Name Key, a small island in the Florida Keys, in the 1930s.
Elle Woodman and her husband, Billy, have ventured down to Matecumbe Key, Florida, from Massachusetts during the Great Depression. Billy and other Great War veterans are struggling to find work. Elle has struggles of her own contending with her manipulative and violent husband. Through a fictitious letter, she aims to escape her marriage but gets no further than No Name Key, where she finds work as a cook in a lodge there. She secures for herself a small shack on a plot of land, which she is intent upon fixing up into a cozy home, but those plans collapse when Billy shows up and sells Elle’s place to Mrs. Rowlands, the married woman he’s having an affair with. Determined to hold onto her little slice of paradise and with a big hurricane bearing down on the little island, Elle makes a decision that may rid her of her evil husband forever. In the aftermath of the storm, Elle’s greatest challenge will be cleaning up her mess while keeping her secret from others on the island, especially the meddlesome Mrs. Rowlands, who has returned in search of Billy. The lush tropical setting provides a beautiful and contrasting background to this somewhat grisly tale. Serious and no-nonsense Elle is a likable character; readers will root for her despite her deeds and the various missteps she makes along the way. If anything, the fact that she’s so inept at hiding her crime will make her more sympathetic to readers. The novel’s ending seems abrupt, leaving a few loose ends, such as the outcome of the brief romantic encounter that Elle had with a married man.
The ultimate fate of this book’s luckless protagonist will keep readers hooked to this survival story/historical crime novel.