The 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.]