"Jericho Cay" by Kathryn R. Wall
Minotaur, 309 pp., $24.99
Reviewed by David Marshall James
P.I. Bay Tanner's latest case is as juicy as a steak from Jump and Phil's, Bay's and husband Red's favorite restaurant on Hilton Head, South Carolina.
A celebrated author of true-crime books contacts Bay to investigate the cold-case disappearance of a megamillionaire from his glass palace on a private island near Hilton Head.
A personal assistant also vanished into the ether at the same time, while their live-in housekeeper committed suicide, as per the offical ruling.
So, the true-crime author wants Bay & Co. (husband Red and partner Erik Whiteside and someone new, who joins the firm during the course of the novel-- no spoiler beyond that) to accomplish what the police have been unable to do.
Bay hesitates, until the would-be client promises to pay fifty percent more than the agency's going rate, and then transfers a hefty sum into the firm's account.
Ka-ching: Th hunt is on.
However, the true-crime author immediately begins to act as mysteriously as the megamillionaire whom Bay & Co. are attempting to track down, alive or dead. His unclaimed fortune is at stake for an equally mysterious cousin.
All those mysterious people make for quite a jolly mystery, with plenty of action.
Meanwhile, at Presqu'isle, Bay's ancestral plantation-manor house north of Hilton Head, near Beaufort, S.C., the stairs and the attic floorboards are creaking with mysteries of their own, while the downstairs kitchen table is groaning with resident housekeeper and mother hen Lavinia Smalls' gumbo, shrimp creole, sweet-potato biscuits, and banana pudding.
It's enough to make Nancy Drew tie a scarf over her famed titian hair and pedal-to-the-metal her convertible to get there before the live-oak branches scratch any harder against the attic windows.
Author Kathryn R. Wall guns her main plot like a V-8 engine on an open road, while the Presqu'isle subplot brings plenty of Southern spin to the mix, particularly the visitation by two cousins from up at Pawleys Island.
Indeed, Wall never lets the reader forget the sights, sounds, smells, and flavors of the South Carolina Lowcountry. You're not going to find a much better set-at-the-beach "beach book."
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