Dear Ms French,
Once again we’re back on the secluded Chesapeake island of Tawes where they have their own way of doing things. Island Justice, they call it. And once again the heroine is told from almost the beginning of the book that evil lurks on the island. Well, the locals sure aren’t kidding about that as similarly to the first book, the body count is high and the descriptions of them are gruesome.
People have lived on Tawes Island for centuries and few outsiders ever move there so it’s not surprising that most of the town are cousins, second cousins, kissing cousins or some variant. So when archaeologists Abbie Night Horse and her mother Karen Knight (I still never really got why the name difference) arrive to do a preliminary excavation of what could be an ancient Indian burial site, they don’t catch all the nuances of life there. I like how you show how the possible sale of some property to mainland developers was beginning to divide the people of the island. Some want change and the jobs that would come and some are ready to defend Tawes any way they can. From the start, we can see that lots of people have a stake in whether or not Abbie and Karen prove that the proposed development site holds the burial site and thus needs to be protected.
But the burial site dig isn’t the only thing that’s going on in Tawes as we start the book straight off the bat with a murder and for the next part, you bring in personable Police Chief Buck Davis, home town boy returning from a stint as a Delaware policeman. I guess after the murder spree of book one the Tawes people decided they might need some local law enforcement after all. I like Buck. He’s down home without the piece of straw between his teeth. He likes what he sees in Abbie and goes for it. She likes him too and I enjoyed their honest, open sexuality. Buck is good at his (real) job but I wish Abbie had just let him do it.
Both Abbie and Karen are competent at their jobs and insist on it from the amateur diggers at the site. So it was especially galling when Abbie spilled some information that Buck had told her in obvious confidence. And she knew what she was doing, how it pissed Buck off and didn’t care. Then she insists on butting into crime scenes, yeah okay even after all of Tawes had tramped through it but still…, and committing the cardinal sin of suspense heroines, putting herself into danger.
You don’t turn the large real estate corporation that wants a toe-in on the island into the usual Evil Big City Businessmen who will stop at nothing to pave paradise and put up a parking lot. In fact, they were rather considerate and stuck to the law. Which brings up another thing. Why does every land transference in Tawes get tied up for weeks as the local lawyer, Forest McCready, tries to sort it out? It doesn’t make me think much of his or his lawyer father or grandfather’s skills with a will. But then again, with the high yearly body count they have on Tawes, it doesn’t seem like too many people would want to move there anyway, beautiful view or no.
As for the killer, I remember precisely one clue early in the book that might have identified him while everything else came out after more victims were found. It was only then, right at the end of the book, that two other characters put it all together and spelled things out to each other to confirm it that I, as a reader, never remember hearing anywhere else. Of course, once those facts came out, there was no way the killer could have been anyone other than who he was. I would stop periodically and review the facts I knew, carefully read the killer’s point of view scenes and still would never have figured it out. Doesn’t this break some kind of mystery/suspense code? Shouldn’t the reader have at least a small chance of deducing the villain?
I’m not usually much for dragging characters from the previous book into the current one but you did this without taking away from the relationship of Buck and Abbie. Another review I read mentions that this book jumps straight into the complex social ties of Tawes and might leave a newbie stranded at low tide. You do explain a lot of who’s who on the island but as far as Bailey and Daniel are concerned, a new reader would have to jump into the deep end. One thing that tickled me is that these two aren’t all lovey-dovey though they are fertile. But wait, Bailey has a dog? Didn’t
you make her dog phobic in the first book? Or if not dog phobic than at least less than thrilled to be around them? It seemed to me that most of the other characters due stay true to the way they were in book one and that was a relief. But would the CIA really be all warm and cuddly the way Daniel describes them at book’s end? I have my doubts.
“Blood Ties” kept me reading. I thought the atmosphere was great. I did enjoy seeing lots of the same secondary characters again but the mystery resolution part didn’t work so well for me. Maybe an aficionado of the genre could have worked it out but this reader didn’t stand a chance. C+
This book can be purchased in mass market paperback.