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Afoot on St. Croix: 01/05/15
Afoot on St. Croix by Rebecca M. Hale is the second of the Mystery in the Islands series. Though marketed as a mystery series, these books really aren't classic mysteries in any of sub-genres. There isn't a crime in the first act and there isn't a criminal caught in the third act. But Hale's other series, Cats and Curios falls into the caper category, so these too are sold as mysteries.
The other interesting thing about the Mystery in the Islands series is that each book is a stand alone. Normally in a series, there's a recurring protagonist sleuth — often someone working in a different field (professional detectives like Sherlock Holmes being a very rare breed).
Charlie Baker is back on St. Croix to see his children one last time. He and his wife (against her will) had moved to the island with their children about ten years ago. She had then divorced him and kept the kids on the island. In all that time he has been writing the letters and not hearing anything in return. But he has the feeling that this will be his lucky break.
As with all her books, Hale switches points of view, giving a chance for the reader to see events from all the major, and sometimes even the minor ones (see my review of How to Moon a Cat for examples). This time it's a mixture of Charlie and his wife's points of view, their children, with the present and past mixed together. Thus the mystery is in the challenge of finding out what happened when and what's going on now.
Although Hale's books are put in the cozy section of the mysteries, in Afoot on St. Croix and in How to Paint a Cat, she has revealed a darker side. There's a thriller writer lurking, waiting to pounce. This book closes on such a shocker that I felt like the final chapters had been ghostwritten by the late Patricia Highsmith or Daphne Du Maurier.