This contemporary thriller opens the morning after a hurricane ravages a Massachusetts island.
The storm’s destroyed homes, flooded businesses, heaved sailboats onto the village green and left residents without power or ferry service. Orchestrating a community cleanup, Eliza, a lifelong resident and concerned high school senior, finds an odd letter in the island lighthouse, apparently a death threat against a girl named Bess. The letter upsets Eliza’s parents; Bess was her mother’s best friend. Her drowning, some feel, was no accident. Eliza (why is unclear) disregards warnings not to stir up the 25-year-old tragedy, but her investigations are stonewalled. Her classmates don’t know the story, and their parents won’t discuss it. Charlie, son of prominent island innkeepers, is an exception, but does the mystery interest him or is it just Eliza? Readers will find it hard to care. The struggle of the year-round islanders—rugged, working folk—to recover is a major plot driver but post-9/11 feels jarringly dated. Hurricane Katrina and FEMA are briefly referenced, but the now-familiar vocabulary and tools of emergency planning—first responders, weather radio, social networking, smartphones—are missing. Given the island’s uncoordinated recovery efforts, it’s fortunate that Gloucester, the bustling mainland seaport and apparently miraculously untouched by the hurricane, is just 9 miles away.
A slapdash tale marred by risible errors and erratic pacing. (Mystery. 12-16)