PHILIP R. CRAIG – Death on a Vineyard Beach. J. W. Jackson #7. Scribner’s, hardcover, 1996. Avon, paperback, 1997.

   This is a series I’ve quit a couple of times because of stupid plots. Oh, well …

   J. W. and his nurse ladylove Zee finally get married, and are no sooner hitched than a rich old man with a shady background who lives on the island wants J. W. to look into an attempt on his life; one that J. W. had serendipitously foiled on their Boston honeymoon. Now Zee is reluctantly taking handgun lessons, and hoping she won’t need them …

   First, let me say that I liked this better than any of this series I can remember. There was no plot foolishness, no cowboy action, and remarkably little violence; just a decent story with believable characters.

   There’s a bit of Robert Parker in Craig’s writing. He likes to describe meal preparation in some detail, and some of the dialogue between Jackson and Zee is a bit reminiscent of the earlier, less egregious Spenser/ Susan relationship.

   I never had any Problems with Craig’s prose, and I still don’t. His first-person narration is well-paced, and he gives a good feel for Martha’s Vineyard without going overboard. Craig finally wrote the kind of book I like to read. Took him long enough, though.

— Reprinted from Ah Sweet Mysteries #26, July 1996.