Reviewer John J. Hohn:
John is a frequent contributor to web sites dedicated to writing and
publishing. Raised in Yankton, SD, he graduated with a degree in
English from St. John’s University (MN) in 1961. He is the father
of four sons and a daughter and a stepfather to a son. He and his
wife divide their time each year between Southport and West
Jefferson, NC. To learn more about John FOLLOW HERE
Author: N. A. Granger
Publisher: Copper Ledge, Inc.
Readers may think they are off on a wonderful quest with N. A. Granger’s latest mystery, Death in a Mudflat. The story takes place in an idyllic coastal town in Maine, Pequot—Herman Melville invoked. In the opening scene, a wedding is brutishly interrupted by the discovery of a body in the mudflats in full view of those attending. The stage is set for Granger to exhibit her knowledge of human anatomy, medical practice, and forensic crime scene procedures. The corpse gets pulled from the gumbo but the story never really gets out of the muck.
Granger invokes many conventions of the modern mystery. Her protagonist, Rhe Brewster, like guys in most mystery novels, has recently lost a significant other. Overcoming her grief, a widow of uncertain age, she shacks up with her deceased husband’s brother, Sam, Sam is the chief of police. Rhe is an emergency room nurse who is on the police payroll as a part-time detective, including badge and sidearm.
Another body is found and the remains of a third. Astonishingly, bones of the three victims glow in the dark. Phosphorous poisoning! How unusual. But that’s not enough. Each has one piece to an expensive set of jewelry; one an earring, the second a necklace, and the third a bracelet. Intriguing clues implicate a host of suspects but turn out red herring as the author never gets a grip on her plot. The overdose death of a college student introduces a parallel investigation. Doubling up the storyline fails to create any suspense as none of the victims are people readers feel induced to care about. None of the principals is eminent danger, unless it is from over eating. The author pause frequently while they snack and chow down. This seat-of-the-pants writing.
Credibility is jettisoned early. A Sunfish-size sailboard, albeit with an experienced woman at the tiller, out-maneuvers a lobster powerboat, The president of a local crime club, without credentials, shares in all the crime work. Never mind confidentiality. The woman even places herself in the hands of the suspected murderer and swallows a dose of the glow-in-the-dark stuff herself. Good thing she didn’t eat all of her muffin. Normally, these folks always clean their plates.
Granger’s Rhe Brewster is self-reliant, assertive, and resourceful. But could she fall from a roof, land flat on her back, and then outrun two thugs from the Russia mafia while having the presence of mind to leave her camera behind so her friend can get a snap of her pursuers. One contrived crisis after another is bailed out by incredible coincidence. In a final scene, Rhe jumps into 50 degree water with a friend who has one arm in a cast and lugs him several yards through the dark water with a flashlight in her mouth to safety. Wonder Woman move over.
Granger’s writing style in this, her latest, is uninspiring, pedestrian, buddle-gum prose. Readers get little insight into the characters. Some, like Dunning, the father of a boy who dies from an overdose, is a melodramatic stereotype. His attorneys, nothing but stooges in Brooks Brothers suits. Granger avoids conflict and emotional exchanges, preferring to summarize instead. The story is full of false starts. One episode after another (goodness what to do next?) takes a run at getting off the ground but peters out before the reader is engaged. The Hardy Boys on steroids, Murder in the Mudflats is comic book.