Wednesday, April 7, 2021

A Case of Vineyard Poison by Philip R. Craig (#6 - 1996)


This is Martha's Vineyard Mystery #6. 

About the author: Philip R. Craig (1933 –2007) was a writer known for his Martha's Vineyard mysteries. He was born in Santa Monica and raised on a cattle ranch near Durango, Colorado. In 1951 he attended Boston University intending to become a minister, and got a degree in 1957. He taught English and Journalism at Endicott College in Beverly, Massachusetts from 1962 to 1965, and at Wheelock College in Boston until 1999, at which point he retired to become a full-time writer. (Wikipedia)

Major characters:
  • Katherine Ellis, NYU student, poisoning victim
  • Denise Vale, NYU student
  • Miles Vale, Denise's father, a medic with a short fuse
  • Glen Gordon, former NYU student, now a bank IT programmer
  • Beth Goodwin, Katherine's roommate
  • Peter Dennison, Katherine's friend
  • Quinn, reporter for The Boston Globe
  • David Greenstein, concert pianist
  • J. W. Jackson
  • Zeolinda "Zee" Madeiras
  • Maria Madeiras, Zee's mother
Locale: Martha's Vineyard, off Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Synopsis: Retired Boston cop, and now Martha's Vineyard resident, J. W. Jackson, is counting down the days to his wedding to Zeolinda "Zee" Madeiras. He hears from old buddy, reporter Quinn, that he is coming to visit and bringing a friend; who turns out to be concert pianist David Greenstein.

J. W. comes home one day to find a moped lying in his driveway, and a young woman dead beside the drive. She is Katherine Ellis, NYU student on vacation. She is found to have been poisoned by a local plant.

Some strange things are happening in the banks around the island. Zee has a deposit of $100K to her account, which gets removed a few days later. Poison victim Katherine had a deposit of $100K, to which she wrote a series of $9000 checks, which were then cashed - and now she is dead. Roommate Denise Vale also had a $100K transaction, and now she is missing. All transactions link back to bank IT programmer Glen Gordon, who was previously at NYU along with both Katherine and Denise.

Review: This one was a little odd, with very little focus on the two murders which occur. The first (the poisoning of Katherine Ellis) is not explained, it is just mentioned in passing - when it could have been expanded into how the killer got the obscure poison and administered it; but nothing along that line. The second (the shooting) is given a wrap-up mention in the final chapter.

Much of the book focuses on J.W.'s hosting of his friends Quinn and David Greenstein, fishing, looking into the banking transactions, and preparations for his upcoming marriage (which we did not get to, it occurs without being recorded, in between #6 and #7). The rocky relationship with his future mother-in-law is funny and enjoyable, although when it progresses to outright flirtation and more-than-platonic kissing it is a bit creepy.

This is #6 in the series, and some of the local anecdotes are getting a copy/paste flavor; leading to a "I've read this before" feeling. I am beginning to skim over the fishing play-by-plays, Sam Adams beer ads, and complaints about the parking situation.

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