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by Steven Axelrod
Poisoned Pen, January 2015
283 pages
ISBN: 146420344x

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

The small-town Chief of Police, Henry Kennis, is maneuvered into a position of servitude by a higher ranking federal investigator from the Department of Homeland Security after bomb threats are made against Nantucket Island. It could be teenagers pulling a prank but DHS takes the threats seriously as evidence of terrorism. The assistant to the federal investigator, who does all of the legwork and also all of the actual thinking, is a former love interest of Kennis's so there are sparks flying besides those of the bombs. The lovely vacation setting and the swelling of the local population with tourists provide a backdrop that is blithely oblivious to the danger and nearly impossible to warn.

The mystery Steven Axelrod concocts is a doozy! The first possible suspect is quickly assumed to be guilty and is duly arrested but he claims that he is being framed. Kennis checks out the possibility of a frame and begins to believe the suspect's story but further evidence shows that the one who might be doing the framing may in turn be being betrayed and also framed. Nobody can provide an alibi for either man and both men, as well as Kennis, know the island inside and out - every nook and cranny, every deserted area, every hiding spot. And the bad guys don't.

After a couple of warning attacks - small bombs and small damage - the big target is revealed: the annual Boston Pops Concert on the island with all kinds of elected officials like the governor, and celebrities, and very rich people who feel very important.

The book is snappy and it's fun. It has good dialogue and a terrifically paced plot. It makes a great choice for an entertaining vacation read on the beach or at a lodge in the mountains - not too demanding but complexly constructed and full of surprises. The characters don't bear a whole lot of critical examination: some, like the bad guy, are just cardboard cutouts moved through the book to fill a hole that would be there without them. From time to time I had the thought that Axelrod had never met a coincidence that he didn't like - they tend to pile up.

But Axelrod does, by golly, pull the whole thing off and pretty darned well. May I say that I really enjoyed NANTUCKET FIVE-SPOT even though I really can't admire it?

Diana Borse is retired from teaching English at Texas A&M University-Kingsville and savoring the chance to read as much as she always wanted to.

Reviewed by Diana Borse, March 2015

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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