It’s a good thing the Nantucket Island police chief loves to solve puzzles, because he finds himself investigating another doozy.
Chief Henry Kennis, a poet and LAPD veteran, is slowly adjusting to Nantucket society, with its sharp contrasts between the working class and the often vulgar rich who plant their mansions all over the island. He’s folded his two children into a family unit with his girlfriend, author Jane Stiles, and her son, though the presence of both exes on the island provides constant opportunities for drama. Someone sets the cat among the pigeons by murdering Horst Refn, the Artistic Director of the Nantucket Theatre Lab, a man so widely hated that Kennis expects a hard time winnowing down the suspects. Even Jane comes under suspicion when a neighbor describes someone who looks like her running from the scene. Refn has been seducing and then blackmailing members of the upper crust, at least one of whom has been witnessed fighting with him. Although Kennis likes to use his keen sense of observation to solve crimes, he’s not above using the skills of a computer-savvy officer who turns up some shocking news. Because Refn, or whoever he really is, is using the name of a dead man, the myriad suspects from his current life may well be joined by more from his mysterious past. Alibis abound, but closer scrutiny shows that many are bogus. The Theatre Lab’s current production is a murder mystery whose plot uncomfortably echoes real life. Just when Kennis thinks he’s discovered the killer, new information pops up that proves him wrong. Hacking his way through a tangle of conflicting stories is a tough job, but the introspective detective is up to the task.
The fifth in Axelrod’s clever series (Nantucket Red Tickets, 2017, etc.) casts a cynical eye on Nantucket’s decidedly diverse denizens. Only the most careful readers, undistracted by his satire, will figure out whodunit.