Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Beautiful Place to Die by Philip R. Craig

Title: A Beautiful Place to Die
Author: Philip R. Craig
ISBN: 9780380711550
Publisher: Avon, 1991
Mass Market Paperback, 224 pages
Genre: Cozy, #1 Martha's Vineyard mystery
Rating: C+
Source: Paperback Swap

First Line: The alarm went off at three-thirty.

During his years as a Boston cop, Jeff "J.W." Jackson got a bellyful of seeing the evil that people do to one another, so when he decided to retire, he bought a place on Martha's Vineyard. Now he spends his time working out in his garden, fishing, cooking, and getting to know a new nurse on the island.

When a local's boat explodes off the coast, killing a well-liked young man, Jackson finds himself being drawn into the investigation. His island sanctuary is being poisoned with drugs and death, and he's determined to do something about it.

Philip R. Craig has a deceptively smooth writing style that drew me right into the story, and J.W. Jackson's self-deprecatory sense of humor put me in his cheering section immediately.

The strength of this book is the depiction of the life and the people of Martha's Vineyard. I could smell the salt air and hear the cry of the gulls wheeling overhead. Between J.W. and island life, I almost didn't notice that the plot was rather thin and had practically no tension. In the case of A Beautiful Place to Die, this didn't really matter because I enjoyed the background so much.

In many ways, this first book in the series seems to have been written as the foundation for all the books to come. While some series start off with grabbing you by the throat and filling in the details later, Craig starts his by telling us, "This is where everything happens. Here's the guy you want to pay close attention to, and here are his neighbors. Come back tomorrow, and I'll tell you a story or two about what goes on here."

I look forward to coming back for more stories.


  1. I often find the first in a series is a little weak in the mystery because the author has to set up the location, the characters, and the background to the books to come. I love the setting of this one and the fact that the characterizations are strong.

  2. I've read every one in this series and liked them a lot. The best parts of the story are the location and characters. Mystery aspects come in second with me.

  3. Cathy - Oh, I really like this series! I'm so very glad that you highlighted it. The setting is, as you've pointed out and so has Beth, wonderful. And I really like the way Jackson's character develops over time.

  4. Candace-- Yes, if the author gets the characters right, then I'm not too bothered about it. Plot-driven readers may not be happy, though!

    Kaye-- Thanks so much for the input!

    Margot-- Thanks for the recommendation!

  5. I've read some of the later ones in the series, and hope they'll get the earlier ones out in ebook format.

    Enjoyable stories. Probably would never be in my top lists, but good reads anyway.

  6. Pepper-- That's the impression I got of the series as I read this book... and there's not a thing wrong with that! LOL


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