Creativity is abundant in Carolyn Hart's latest Death on Demand
mystery, MURDER WALKS THE PLANK. Fourteen previous novels in the
series have won multiple Agatha, Anthony and Macavity Awards. A
founder of Sisters in Crime, Hart recently received a lifetime
achievement award by the Oklahoma Center for the Book. Although she
is a resident of Oklahoma City, Hart has set her Death on Demand
series along the coast of South Carolina. For her, mystery writing
is a task for the author to provide enough information so that
readers can reach a conclusion.
Along with her belief that the genre should present a dilemma that
is solved in an orderly manner, she has provided the right mix in
MURDER WALKS THE PLANK. Her heroine, Annie Darling, owns a
bookstore that specializes in mystery novels called Death on
Demand. Fifteen books have featured Darling as the mystery solver.
Darling interacts with husband Max to solve the multiple murders,
attempted murder and a suspicious destructive fire in MURDER WALKS
THE PLANK. Hart introduces the principal characters in section
breaks in her first chapter, a process that switches viewpoints in
a distracting manner. Once established, the characters evolve in a
more orderly fashion.
Darling's bookstore has chartered a yacht and guests are invited to
solve a contrived mystery while on board. Soon after her arrival, a
young woman, Pamela, falls overboard into the water and is presumed
dead. The cruise comes to an abrupt halt, contrived mystery
unsolved. However, the body count rises in the next few days.
Darling finds herself in the middle of a multiple murder
investigation. She is aided by husband Max, notable local author
Emma Lloyd, customer Henny Brawley, and sister Rachel. The second
body is that of Meg Heath, dowager recluse of the island community
and widow of wealthy Duff Heath.
Darling is convinced that Meg's death, initially reported as a
suicide from medicinal overdose, is a homicide. She and Max
doggedly track evidence they believe leads to a finding of murder,
especially when a third body, Meg's long-time friend, Bob Smith,
turns up. Darling's entire family becomes involved in the process
in supporting her hypothesis. Their most difficult task is to
convince the local police chief, Billy Crandall, that they are
right. He has quickly concluded that Pamela's fall was an accident
and that Meg's death was a suicide.
The solution is orderly, but viewpoints switch rapidly to propel
the action to its logical ending. All players do support Darling's
thesis and work with her to achieve its outcome. Little time is
spent in the bookstore, but references to works by renowned mystery
sleuths are interspersed in the novel. MURDER WALKS THE PLANK is
filled with dialogue that moves the story forward. Hart has a new
fan of her mystery series in this reviewer, one who will welcome
future Death on Demand books.
Reviewed by Judy Gigstad on January 22, 2011