Slipknot by Linda Greenlaw Hyperion, 262 pp., $24.95 Reviewed by David Marshall James Green Haven, Maine, is a far cry from Cabot Cove, but Jane Bunker may have Jessica Fletcher beat. After all, Jane's just 42, and she worked as a police detective in Miami. However, something went horribly wrong with Jane's mentor on the force, and she has left her badge, if not her heart, in Dade County to return to her birthplace. She's also assumed what she hopes will be a dull job, investigating maritime concerns for insurance claims and policy renewals and readjustments. This being a mystery, there's likely to be a corpse, and Jane stumbles upon the tidal-borne body of the town drunk while she's inspecting a fish-processing plant. "Ayuh," proclaim the Down Easters. "So sotted up he fell off the pier, hit his head, and drowned." And that consensus would have been that, but Jane doesn't believe the head wound is accidental. Even so, without solid evidence, she cannot interest the state police in journeying out to look into the matter. So, she's back to being detective, at least on her own nickel. Author Linda Greenlaw, whose three previous nonfiction books include "The Hungry Ocean," seems to be the sort who wants to breathe only salty air. Indeed, she still captains a lobster boat in Maine. At one juncture in Greenlaw's first novel, Jane comments that she feels she's traveling into an Alfred Hitchcock movie. It's an appropriate reference, as Green Haven resembles the locale of Hitchcock's "The Birds," even though that's a West Coast setting. The town doesn't particularly cater to outsiders, unless they leave shortly after dropping their tourist dollars. There's not even a quaint inn to tide them over. Green Haven's economy is inseparable from the seafood plant and the fishermen who supply it. Nevertheless, Greenlaw creates some entertaining characters, including the multipierced waitress at the local beanery, the proprietresses of the town's general store, and Jane's new landlords, the Vickersons. She's renting an apartment above their emporium, the Lobster Trappe, a true "junque shoppe." The Vickersons, who are fond of single malt Scotch and discussing their ailments, are way up in Jane's business. However, they share the Scotch and frequently ask her to dinner, so she lets their intrusiveness slide. The only complaint with Greenlaw's otherwise ship-shape debut novel is that the nautical terminology occasionally becomes so heavy that it pulls the reader overboard. Otherwise, she has written a mystery that would make Jessica Fletcher green with envy. Sea green, that is. * * *
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