Tag Archives: sailing

Review: The Bitter End, by Linda Hall

The Bitter End, by Linda HallThe Bitter End, by Linda Hall (2015)

Most contracts see Captain Em Ridge delivering sailboats to wealthy owners who don’t like to do their own long-haul trips. This time, though, she’s ferrying an over-the-top TV host around the Bermuda Triangle looking for evidence of the bizarre.

It’s an uneventful assignment, until they discover an abandoned sailboat whose occupants seem to have vanished over dinner. Unlike the crew of the Mary Celeste, though, someone put out extra food and water for the ship’s cat before disappearing.

Em knows this boat – and the cat. They belong to her beloved Uncle Ferd, the family black sheep – and the one who taught her to sail.

At first she fears he’s been taken by pirates, but the truth may be worse: he’s wanted by the authorities in connection with a murder. In setting out to clear her childhood hero’s name, Em may discover Uncle Ferd isn’t the man she thought he was.

The Bitter End is the second Em Ridge mystery, and I’m looking forward to more in this series. You could start with this one, but book 1, Night Watch, is also a good read and it lets you meet Em at the start of her adventures.

As well as being satisfying mysteries, the books give readers a taste of the sailing life. Author Linda Hall does a stellar job of sharing the experience with readers in a way that feels natural and without confusing us with jargon. Having logged many hours on her own sailboat, she knows the best details to include.

She also knows how to write memorable, flawed characters, and vivid descriptions. My favourite in this book:

“Where the doorbell should have been, a few threads of twisted wire stuck out like the veins of a robot.” [Kindle location 1159]

In the past, Linda Hall has written for the Christian market, but her Em Ridge novels are mainstream. As such, she allows her characters the occasional mild profanity, and there isn’t an overtly Christian thread through the stories. Em’s mother has a rigid faith, which sounds like it has a lot to do with Em’s lack of relationship with her family as well as with God. While I don’t think we’ll see Em experience a dramatic conversion in the series, I do hope we’ll see some resolution in these areas. She’s not happy this way, and her mother’s not healthy her way either.

Em is a widow, and there’s a handsome detective who keeps crossing her path, however he has baggage of his own – including an estranged wife.

These ongoing threads tie the novels together and keep me looking forward to the next one even after the current mystery has been satisfactorily resolved.

Linda Hall is an award-winning writer of mystery and suspense. For more about the author and her books, visit writerhall.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: Night Watch, by Linda Hall

Night Watch, by Linda Hall (Linda Hall, 2014)Night Watch, by Linda Hall

Captain Emmeline Ridge’s stint delivering a luxury sailboat from Canada to Bermuda is rudely interrupted when the owner’s daughter vanishes over the side in the middle of the night. The ship and crew are brought to Portland, Maine, for an investigation, but the complications have only begun.

Detective Ben Dunlinson, new to the Portland City Police and very new to all things nautical, seems competent despite rumours of past disgrace. The local sailing community, including highly-respected Captain Tom Mallen, offers support.

Compounding Em’s stress, the state medical examiner discovers irregularities in the records of Em’s husband Jesse’s death. Jesse died nearly two years ago in what was called a freak accident, but Em has wondered. And continued to grieve.

Em is a resourceful and intelligent woman, trying desperately to figure out what’s going on. Who’s behind this current murder? And how could it possibly be tied to Jesse? Em’s emotional state causes some questionable choices about who to trust, until I wanted to crawl into the book and yell at her. (I’m not saying if those choices turned out to be right or wrong, just that at the time they looked wrong. No spoilers here.)

Linda Hall is one of those gifted authors who can weave memorable characters, lifelike settings and intriguing plots into novels that are too easy to keep reading when we should stop to sleep. I always enjoy her minor characters, the ones with not a lot of page time but who deepen the story. In this case, I liked Em’s neighbours in the small point of land on which she lives.

One of the fun things about this mystery is the authentic sailing setting. The author knows her sailing, and her descriptions include details that draw readers into the experience. This is woven organically into the story, and never presented as an info-dump or lecture.

Favourite lines:

His fingers kept crawling up the sides of his squall jacket like crabs. [Kindle location 90]

Thinking about my current bank account made me want to crawl into a corner and chew on the ends of my sweater sleeves. [Kindle location 1455]

Night Watch is book one in the Em Ridge Mystery series. It’s a mainstream novel and does contain occasional mild profanity. That didn’t affect my enjoyment of the story, but if it’s an issue for you, be warned.

Award-winning author Linda Hall has written many novels for the Christian market, and this is her first mainstream mystery. Her most recent publication was the short story anthology, Strange Faces, also mainstream. You can read my review here.) You can find Linda Hall online at writerhall.com or on Facebook.

[Advance review copy provided by the author.]