Cynthia Riggs - Martha's Vineyard MysteriesI love Martha's Vineyard, with its quiet lanes and lovely gingerbread cottages. I was thrilled to find a mystery series set on this lovely location. I was even more happy that the lead character - Victoria - was a 92 year old island resident. It offered a lot of texture, background and wisdom to come out of the main character.
The story is a nicely complex one. There's an empty coffin which, it turns out, has millions of dollars of jewels hidden in it. There are numerous people who are after the jewels and perhaps killing each other off as well. You have the typical small island politics, with people fighting with each other, attracted to each other, and generally leading mixed-up lives. You also get the quiet, non-tourist-season glimpses into the island in its "natural state".
I love how you really get a sense of what an island is like off season. The residents all know each other. They know the back routes into the dump when the front one is closed. They plow through the snow, they walk down the quiet lanes. They're lonely and friendly and patient and tense.
There are subtle clues slipped into conversation that you might miss or might pick up on. There are literary references that, if you catch them, give you a leg up as well.
I do have a complaint about Victoria. I really like characters with flaws and with a well rounded aspect to them. So I appreciate that Victoria shouldn't be perfect. However, she appears to have completely NO common sense at times. It starts with her planning on sending cash in to a "you've won $10 million dollars" sort of sweepstakes offering. It always drives me insane that people in our modern day and age fall for the Nigerian Money Scam, so to have a lead character in essence doing this in the story bugged me. This happens right in the beginning of the book so it was very off-setting.
Victoria goes on to do several other things like this, including inviting a supposed murderer to her house and just chatting with him, with nobody else around, completely unprotected - and bringing up key topics with him. You could say "Oh, but she comes from a gentler time when everyone was friendly." Surely she didn't get to age 92 without learning to take care of herself. It's like this aspect of her comes and goes to fit the plot. Sometimes she is quite wise and sharp. At other times - when the plot calls for it - her brain turns to mush and she is completely blind to the dangers. It was very frustrating to me.
Still, I did enjoy the book and I told myself that "her brain had temporarily become feeble because of her age" to get myself past those moments. It did reduce my enjoyment of the book, because the whole reason I was enjoying the 92 yr old character was that she WAS portrayed as able to live on her own and be a productive member of the community. To have to reduce her to "having flashes of great stupidity" because of her age upset me. If at least *reasons* for her lapses could be put into future books, I think I would enjoy them much more.
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