cover image Vineyard Blues

Vineyard Blues

Philip R. Craig. Scribner Book Company, $23 (224pp) ISBN 978-0-684-83455-9

Despite a propitious start, Craig's latest offering in the Vineyard series soon degrades into a dull tale hampered by cardboard characters and a simplistic plot. Former Boston cop J.W. Jackson, the easy-going narrator, is surprised and pleased to see an old friend of his father's, Corrie Appleyard, stroll up his Martha's Vineyard driveway. Corrie, a blues guitarist who has come to the island for a few small gigs, renews his friendship with J.W., whom he hasn't seen in 30 years. After an enjoyable evening with J.W. and his wife, Zee, Corrie returns to his lodging, a house owned by slumlord Ben Krane. Several days later, as Corrie is about to return to the mainland, that house burns to the ground with an unidentified body inside. Suspecting arson, the third against one of his rental properties, Krane hires Jackson to investigate, despite their unexplained mutual animosity. Jackson, meanwhile, fearing that a now-missing Corrie is the arson victim, has been asked by friend Susanna to help identify the man who has been harassing her over the phone about her former life in the porn industry. The premise for both plots is solid enough, but Jackson's irritatingly perfect wife and children are too unrealistic to be believed, while other characters lack personality. Predictable endings to both mysteries cap off a disappointing novel in which the only remaining question is how many times the Jackson children get taken for ice cream. (June)