cover image A Beautiful Place to Die

A Beautiful Place to Die

Philip R. Craig / Author Scribner Book Company $18.95 (211p) I

Retired cop J. W. Jackson, the protagonist of this debut mystery,is it okay to use `mystery' in the section entitled such? also at end of this review and last review. Why not? is a passionate fisherman, an enthusiastic cook and appreciative gourmand, a quoter of Keats and Babar stories, and a dogged sleuth. Unfortunately, the latter quality is not displayed to impressive advantage in this ingratiating but largely tensionless yarn. The title refers to Martha's Vineyard, which Craig evokes quite well, conveying not only specific local color but also the sociological patterns of an inbred island community, celebrated by tourists for its idyllic ambience but also a haven for drug traffickers. When one of J. W.'s fishing buddies is killed in the explosion of a boat belonging to another fishingangling? while i hate to repeat the word fishing, I'm afraid angling will not do pal, a millionaire entrepreneur, J. W. dusts off his investigative skills, focusing on the boat owner's spoiled son, a former druggie. Meanwhile he is wooing a comely nurse, an apt student of angling I can see using it here techniques and as snappy a conversationalist as J. W. himself. While this is all pleasant, it is not terribly suspenseful. Since the romance proceeds without any problems strewn in the lovers' path, and the mystery lacks urgency and a sense of menace (despite the requisite car chase and a thunderstorm that cuts the power at a critical moment), this literate novel gets points for prose style but not for thrills. (Dec.)