In his debut mystery, Grant mines a culture of retirees living the good life on an isolated island in southwest Florida.
The novel opens in the village of Saint James City on tiny Pine Island near Florida’s western coast. This is no Margaritaville; in fact, the average age is well north of 60. There are no beaches here, and most people are out of the restaurants and bars and into their beds by 11 p.m. The narrator is retired banker Jim Story, who’s happily married to retired banker Jill. Between their infrequent travels and visits to grandchildren, they enjoy a relaxed lifestyle of seafood dinners, afternoon cocktails with friends and lots of fishing. However, their peaceful existence is disturbed when one of Story’s former banking colleagues, Javier Hernandez, comes to visit, goes fishing on a boat and is later found dead—shot between the eyes. It turns out that Javier was a descendant of a former Spanish police officer who served in Cuba in the early 20th century, and his inexplicable murder sets Story on a quest to find connections between American political and financial interests in Cuba, a century-old war crime, Spanish peacekeepers and a cache of gold. As he digs deeper into the histories of wealthy and powerful figures, however, he makes dangerous enemies. The Storys eventually enlist the help of a retired military officer, Steve Fairchild, and his wife in identifying and hunting down the killer. All ends well back in St. James City, and the residents drink and dance in celebration of a crime solved. However, the novel’s pace is as leisurely as a group of seniors after midnight; the plot meanders through detours and side roads and, as a result, loses steam along the way. It devotes many pages to tangential topics, such as an involved description of Salamanca, Spain; techniques for trimming palm trees; and the different flavors of Vienna sausages. Some of these deviations add color and context, but the dilatory pace and lackadaisical point of view reduce the impact of a story set in motion by a shocking murder.
An intriguing but overly detailed story of avarice and crime.