A prolific firebug shatters the peace of Provincetown's normally calm offseason.
Seals are a quirky tourist attraction for customers of Yaya's Greek Restaurant. So why is someone massacring them? When detective Frank Coffin and uniformed deputy Lola Winters investigate, Yaya's owner, Stecopoulos, blames some annoyed drag queens for the seal killings, but after questioning them, Coffin finds that an unlikely theory. Though tourist season's just ended and Provincetown should be quiet, Coffin, who's doubling as police chief until a replacement can be found, has his hands full, as he regularly reminds his levelheaded ladylove, Jamie, who keeps him on an even keel. A mysterious arsonist is setting mostly innocuous fires, most recently in a dumpster behind Rossi's Package Store. Starting with a vague description of a white male fleeing the dumpster and some research, Coffin begins to assemble a profile. The case takes a more serious turn with the burning of a two-story building in a prominent part of town. Experts don't buy Coffin's theory that there's a copycat at work. A suspect emerges, but without probable cause, Coffin can't get into his home to search for evidence. The rash of arson starts to seem like a petty nuisance when someone from The Fish Palace calls Coffin to report a head floating in the lobster tank. The victim is Dr. Branstool, the unpopular head of Valley View Nursing Home. Coffin can only hope the arsonist will take a break so he can solve the homicide.
Coffin's third (Mating Season, 2009, etc.) has a smart, easy feel, a large cast of likable characters and snappy dialogue.