FRANCINE MATHEWS – Death in the Off-Season. Merry Folger #1. William Morrow, hardcover, 1994. Avon, paperback, 1995. Soho Crime, trade paperback, 2016.

   There are two facts worthy of immediate note here, before reading a word of the text: that this is yet another first novel trumpeting on the dust wrapper that it is “An Ima New Character Book” (as though anyone gave a damn yet if ever), and Morrow has it priced at $23. Twenty-three dollars. For an unknown. I simply don’t understand. Someone help me, please.

   Merry Folger us a detective on the Nantucket Police Department, and the daughter of the Chief. She catches her first murder case when the brother of a local farmer turns up unexpectedly at the farm after a ten year absence — murdered at the gate,

   Nobody knows why he returned; not the brother, not the lawyer and family friend, not Merry’s ex-love and the brother;s current employee. Nobody. But then somebody takes a shot at the brother, and Merry has to decide whose life to dig in.

   This is all too typical of a type of “mystery” that has become ubiquitous. It’s all about Relationships. Merry with her father. Merry with her ex-love. Merry with the brother. The brother with everybody. And on and on. As a crime novel, it’s silly, and the “investigation” bears about as much relationship[ to real police work as it does to … whatever. It’s told in third person from a number of viewpoints, primarily Merry’s and the brother’s, and the prose is adequate, no more. $23, my ass. Pass this up and read a romance.

— Reprinted from Ah Sweet Mysteries #15, September 1994.

       The Merry Folger series —

1. Death in the Off Season (1994)
2. Death in Rough Water (1995)
3. Death in a Mood Indigo (1997)
4. Death in a Cold Hard Light (1998)
5. Death on Nantucket (2017)