Friday, May 7, 2010

Wrecked by Carol Higgins Clark

Private Investigator Regan Reilly and her husband, Jack, are about to celebrate their first wedding anniversary.  They decide to spend four days at his parents' beautiful beachfront home on Cape Cod.   Regan and Jack are just in time to experience a major storm.  Skip, the family's caretaker, discoveres Adele Hopkins, the woman renting the house next door, in a heap at the bottom of her staircase to the beach.  Regan and Jack run back down with him, but huge waves are crashing on the shore.  Hopkins is gone, presumably swept out to sea.  Regan and Jack begin an investigation to help their friends track down Hopkins's family.  Regan and Jack's search for clues to this mysterious woman's identity makes for an anniversary weekend they'll never forget! (from publisher's synopsis)

If nothing else, this book is aptly titled - it is a Wreck!  A stormy weekend on the Cape Cod shore, a cast of off-beat residents, a quirky group of strangers visiting town, multiple sub-plots - Ms. Clark started out with all the makings for a top-rate cozy mystery and she spun an entertaining tale for two-hundred pages.  Unfortunately, that's where the ship ran aground and the whole thing sank.

The major premise of the book is the search for the family of Adele Hopkins, the woman who is assumed to have been swept out to sea.  The belongings she left in her rental house raise questions about her background and her motives for living a reclusive life.  The search leads Regan and Jack to a local gift shop.  The sub-plot involving the owners of the store and their on-line "Pillow Talk" site adds another layer of intrigue.  Skip, the caretaker, adds his own twists to the plot.  Off to a great start!

But the last fifty pages were a huge disappointment.  (*Possible Spoiler Alert* - as if the ending itself wasn't spoiler enough.) There's someone hiding in the house, but when the culprit was revealed, rather than shock or even "I knew it!", my reaction was "Who?"  We never do find out exactly why she was there. Why is the ex-boyfriend in the closet (literally)?  Why was Adele living as a hermit?  To whom was she planning to send all the apology cards and pillows?  Who returned the pillow slashed to shreds?  What happened in Floyd's past to make him so loony?  Why was the milk the caretaker left in the fridge already sour?  What was the secret item hiding under Adele's pillow?  Is there a connection between the various storylines or are they just there as filler?  Some of these questions are answered haphazardly and some are never answered at all. 

Note to mystery authors:  When the big reveal moment arrives, we readers like to be in on it.  There is nothing more frustrating to a who-done-it fan than to invest hours in solving a puzzle, only to have it all end with a two-minute wrap-up that includes revelations like "It's a good thing Dan found that plaque that had fallen under the bed, that answered all our questions." or "It turns out Skip was taking care of more than one house and he accidently mixed up the milk cartons."  We want to be there when the clues are found; we want to be rewarded for our sleuthing efforts by participating in the culmination.

I have read a couple others in this series and don't recall being disgruntled at the endings, but this installment foundered.

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