The Bitter End Reviewed By Steve Moore of
Steve Moore

Reviewer Steve Moore: Steve is a full-time writer and ex-scientist. Besides his many technical publications, he has written six sci-fi thrillers (one a novel for young adults), many short stories, and frequent comments on writing and the digital revolution in publishing. His interests also include physics, mathematics, genetics, robotics, forensics, and scientific ethics. Follow Here for his WEBSITE.

By Steve Moore
Published on December 1, 2015

Author: Linda Hall



Author: Linda Hall


Emmeline (Em) Ridge is a female boat delivery captain. In other words, she’ll follow rich people around the oceans and deliver their sailing yachts to them because they want to get from point A to B faster. In the first book in this series, she had just lost her husband but still managed to solve a mystery. Fate gives her another blow by involving her in a new mystery related to an uncle’s disappearance. Here we go again. Ready for a fun ride? Sailing we will go.

Sequels are always suspect. First, there’s the question of whether the book can stand alone. This one does, and it does it very well. There’s enough back story to bring the reader quickly up-to-date. A few characters are the same—Em, of course, her cop friend, her old neighbors, and so forth, persons who are almost part of that Maine landscape, and the author does a good job of describing them anew without belaboring the point. A new protagonist, Em’s uncle Ferd (short for Ferdinand), is mostly absent except for back story, but he plays the important role of a potential victim. He’s also accused of murder, but maybe he’s really dead, and Em stubbornly pursues the case, even over the protests of her sage but conflicted cop friend.

Like the first book in the series, the characters here are complex, so much so that many can be considered persons of interest as Em struggles to prove her uncle’s innocence and discover whether he’s still alive. Because this is written in first person, the reader shares all her doubts and suspicions and will experience directly the clues as they are found. The author throws in enough misdirects to satisfy any reader of mysteries, though, confusing Em as well. (I was able to guess most of the story before long, but maybe I have an unfair advantage—I write mysteries too.) This book is probably better than the first, so that failure of some sequels is also avoided. In fact, it’s a first-rate mystery with great plot, characters, and settings.

The visit to the scene of the crime deep in the heart of Pennsylvania is a wee bit unusual. Em is most comfortable on a boat, while the people in the Pennsylvania town are mostly clueless about sailing. It’s almost like first contact between Terrans and ETs! (I’ve also experienced some of that in Pennsylvania, a microcosm of the U.S. with big cities Pittsburgh and Philadelphia and a lot of rural Americana in between.) Otherwise, most of the novel occurs on and around the ocean, from Bermuda to Maine. The meaning of the title is explained at the beginning of the novel—it’s a sailing term—but any lover of the sea and sailing will smile at Hall’s authentic portrayals of action on the water.

I was expecting more about the Bermuda Triangle. It really plays a minor role, although it provides a bit of strangeness at the beginning of the novel. That’s where Ferd disappears, and Em finds his empty boat with only his cat Bear on board. I also thought her temporary employer, the reality star and her reason for being there, would play more of a role, but he doesn’t. Count these things as misdirects too, I guess. The first adds eeriness; the second a bit of comedy (the reality show is about conspiracy theories).

Hall’s action scenes are good and add thrills to this mystery, which also has plenty of suspense. I would have spent more pages on the final confrontation with the killer, though. The earlier confrontation with his associate gets more attention. It seemed like the author was in a rush to finish. While many details aren’t learned until the end, reminding me of those old Agatha Christie tales where everyone gathers around and hears Miss Marple or Poirot explain what happened, the denouement doesn’t contain any cliffhangers. The next Em book will have to be a fresh story, always a good thing—I’m looking forward to it.

The Christie remembrance is fitting for another reason. Besides the importance of family, there really aren’t earth-shaking themes here. And the real lesson is that events many years in your past, even ones unknown to you, can come back and haunt you. So there’s a lot of old classical mystery flavor in this novel. It also leaves you thinking: what stories about your old relatives are true? All of the genealogical databases in the world would have trouble answering that question, so Em’s confusion about memories of her uncle not matching those of others in her circle of family and friends are probably not rare even in the real world. In this book, that only adds to the intrigue.