A simple murder revives a New England legend in this first installment of a series.
Wissonet is a small, tightknit community perched on the shores of Buzzards Bay. For John and Mary Wendell, it’s the perfect place to raise their growing family. That is, until the body of Commodore Cummings is discovered on his boat, the apparent victim of murder. Despite Mary’s misgivings and the town’s hostility, John finds himself pulled into the investigation of the prominent man’s death. John is a Navy veteran who knows his boats, as does Rotch (Beware of the Elephant, 2015, etc.), who includes a great deal of details about design and sailing. Soon, the Wendells are receiving threatening messages, warning them to mind their own business. John’s mental health takes a turn as the World War II veteran begins to suffer the effects of PTSD. The crime also reinvigorates the legend of the Wissonet Witch, a tale whose roots can be traced to the founding of the town. While John is tracking a stolen boat and attempting to identify a killer, Mary dives into the town’s history and discovers startling revelations about Wissonet’s roots. Rotch offers a multilayered story as the Wendells find themselves caught in a warped web of past and present that threatens their very lives. The historical mystery, focused on the birth of Wissonet and the legend of the witch, is intriguing. Whereas the commodore’s murder feels like a run-of-the-mill case with a rather unremarkable pool of suspects, the secrets surrounding the untimely deaths of members of one of the town’s founding families involve appealingly quirky players. Still, there is room for additional character development; the author could have delved more deeply into Ruth and Prudence Cummings, strong women who were victimized, misunderstood, and misremembered. But there are some captivating lessons here about whose version of history is accepted as fact and how the past can be twisted and used to impact the present day.
A satisfying mystery that demonstrates the risks of manipulating history.