Friday, June 11, 2010
Friday Review: A Timely Vision by Joyce and Jim Lavene
At the beginning of my vacation this week in Duck, North Carolina, on the Outer Banks, I visited the Island Bookstore at the Scarborough Faire shops in the heart of Duck. Knowing I was scheduled to write a book review today, I wanted to pick a new book that I would be able to read in time for today's review. A display of books having local interest caught my eye. "A Timely Vision," by Joyce and Jim Lavene is a cozy mystery set in my vacation spot, Duck, North Carolina. Published by Berkley Prime Crime in May 2010, I knew I had my "victim."
The main character, Dae O'Donnell, is the single, thirty-something mayor of Duck. As in reality, the novel accurately portrays Duck as a quaint tourist town on the narrow strip of land that runs parallel to the coast of North Carolina. Dae also is the owner of a shop called Missing Pieces, which features a mish mash of antique pieces, collectibles, and souvenir items, what some might call junk. Dae has a particular gift for finding lost items by holding the hand of the person who lost the item. This paranormal talent comes in handy when a local woman, 90+ year old Miss Elizabeth, is found murdered and buried in the beach dunes.
When the Duck police ultimately implicate Miss Elizabeth's cantankerous older sister, Miss Mildred, for the crime, Dae knows they have charged the wrong person, but she has nothing but her intuition and her skill for finding lost items to assist her in identifying the killer. A cast of characters, mostly local shop owners and police, are introduced to either help or impede Dae in unraveling the murder mystery. Kevin Brinkman, the new owner of the run-down Blue Whale Inn, comes to Dae's aid as both a former FBI agent and love interest.
History, both real and fictional, plays a leading role in the novel as well. The Outer Banks has 400 years of European history in its sands, which the authors weave into the novel, particularly with the pirates who used the land as sanctuary. The history of Miss Elizabeth and Miss Mildred comes to the fore as well, when the skeletal remains of Miss Elizabeth's lost love are found in a locked room of the Blue Whale Inn. The sleepy town of Duck now has two murders to investigate.
Miss Mildred is declared incompetent to stand trial because she reports seeing the ghost of her dead sister who brings her a purse with bloody gloves for safekeeping. After Miss Mildred is taken to an "institution," her valuable house and land are quickly put up for auction along with the property of her dead sister. Knowing that Miss Mildred is innocent, Dae must solve the mystery before the properties are sold at the auction block and Miss Mildred loses her ancestral home. Immediately, Dae suspects Miss Mildred's grand nephew, who is responsible for rushing the properties to auction, of the crime.
In the end, the mystery is solved of course, and Miss Mildred's property is saved in the nick of time. Dae and Kevin have not hooked up as a couple yet, but certainly that will follow in the next book or two of the series. "A Timely Vision" is the first in the Missing Pieces series by the authors.
Aside from some implausible probate and property transfer issues (OK, that's the paralegal in me talking), "A Timely Vision" is a delightful mystery and a quick read. Distinctive characters in the small town setting are sure to develop further as the series continues. Dae O'Donnell is a strong, smart lead who can carry her townspeople through a crisis or two. The authors successfully captured the feeling of Duck and the Outer Banks, at least from this tourist's perspective. This is a light, fun read, perfect for an afternoon at the beach.