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Death at Woods Hole (Emily Cabot Mysteries) Paperback – July 1, 2012
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About the Author
Frances McNamara grew up in Boston, where her father served as Police Commissioner for ten years. She has degrees from Mount Holyoke and Simmons Colleges, and is now a librarian at the University of Chicago. She is working on the fifth book in the Emily Cabot mystery series, Death at Chinatown. When not working or writing she can be found sailing on Lake Michigan.
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All at once, after the murder, the destruction of a scientist's research and their struggle for academic power, and the forming and deserting of love affairs, there is also the hint of a cache of stolen treasure nearby. To top off the fun, an acidic and domineering town sheriff takes out his "town and gown" resentment on the academics with their knowledge of obscure microscopic research work.
Author McNamara's prose is clear and accessible, a particularly remarkable feat in a book that includes a great many characters. While perhaps somewhat short on description, the characters and scenes do seem believable and engaging. One becomes involved in their many back stories.
The following is an example of a memorable life-threatening scene aboard ship as the students and police attempt to rescue refugee scientists and the lost treasure. I include it here as illustration of the author's considerable writing talent.
. . ."Gone? How could it be gone? I struggled up and followed Cornelia, who stumbled across the floor and out the doorway. I was struck in the face by a blast of wind and rain and felt the deck beneath my feet rise, then drop away. I grabbed the door jamb. Clutching that and a fixture on the outside wall, I saw what Elliot and Luther had seen. Water was rushing all the way up to the Main. The dock, or what was left of it, was barely visible in the trough of a wave, then covered again. There was nothing to pull up to, no way to stop and get off. The only alternative was to swim, and even that was not a possibility. The waves would smash a body against the shore and crush it. I could see figures on the roof of the Main. Stephen was there, surely." . . .
For a good, fast moving tale, I wholeheartedly suggest you add author McNamara's Emily Cabot Mystery to your library of nineteenth century American historical fiction. You'll be glad you did.
The chapter about the clam bake is interesting and pretty well done, particularly for a writer from way inland, but it really didn't add anything to the story except a pleasant interlude.
I really wanted to like this book and to be able to give it a glowing review. I can't and even the 3 stars was a stretch. The author had an interesting premise and several interesting characters but she needs to lighten up her narratives, and, perhaps go all imaginary characters or only use a very few real people, very incidentally. She also has to study mystery writing and, perhaps, read some of the masters -- some golden age writers such as Ngaio Marsh, Gladys Mitchell, Margery Allingham, Agatha Christie, Josephine Tey, Dorothy Sayers, etc.