24 November 2022

Death on a Winter Stroll by Francine Mathews Review!

 


No-nonsense Nantucket detective Merry Folger grapples with the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and two murders as the island is overtaken by Hollywood stars and DC suits.

Nantucket Police Chief Meredith Folger is acutely conscious of the stress COVID-19 has placed on the community she loves. Although the island has proved a refuge for many during the pandemic, the cost to Nantucket has been high. Merry hopes that the Christmas Stroll, one of Nantucket’s favorite traditions, in which Main Street is transformed into a winter wonderland, will lift the island’s spirits. But the arrival of a large-scale TV production, and the Secretary of State and her family, complicates matters significantly.
 
The TV shoot is plagued with problems from within, as a shady, power-hungry producer clashes with strong-willed actors. Across Nantucket, the Secretary’s troubled stepson keeps shaking off his security detail to visit a dilapidated house near conservation land, where an intriguing recluse guards secrets of her own. With all parties overly conscious of spending too much time in the public eye and secrets swirling around both camps, it is difficult to parse what behavior is suspicious or not—until the bodies turn up.
 
Now, it’s up to Merry and Detective Howie Seitz to find a connection between two seemingly unconnected murders and catch the killer. But when everyone has a motive, and half of the suspects are politicians and actors, how can Merry and Howie tell fact from fiction?
 
This latest installment in critically acclaimed author Francine Mathews’s Merry Folger series is an immersive escape to festive Nantucket, a poignant exploration of grief as a result of parental absence, and a delicious new mystery to keep you guessing.


Francine Mathews was born in Binghamton, NY in 1963, the last of six girls. Her father was a retired general in the Air Force, her mother a beautiful woman who loved to dance. The family spent their summers on Cape Cod, where two of the Barron girls now live with their families; Francine's passion for Nantucket and the New England shoreline dates from her earliest memories. She grew up in Washington, D.C., and attended Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School, a two hundred year-old Catholic school for girls that shares a wall with Georgetown University. Her father died of a heart attack during her freshman year.

In 1981, she started college at Princeton – one of the most formative experiences of her life. There she fenced for the club varsity team and learned to write news stories for The Daily Princetonian – a hobby that led to two part-time jobs as a journalist for The Miami Herald and The San Jose Mercury News. Francine majored in European History, studying Napoleonic France, and won an Arthur W. Mellon Foundation Fellowship in the Humanities in her senior year. But the course she remembers most vividly from her time at Princeton is "The Literature of Fact," taught by John McPhee, the Pulitzer Prize winning author and staff writer for The New Yorker. John influenced Francine's writing more than even she knows and certainly more than she is able to say.

Francine spent three years at Stanford pursuing a doctorate in history; she failed to write her dissertation (on the Brazilian Bar Association under authoritarianism; can you blame her?) and left with a Masters. She applied to the CIA, spent a year temping in Northern Virginia while the FBI asked inconvenient questions of everyone she had ever known, passed a polygraph test on her twenty-sixth birthday, and was immediately thrown into the Career Trainee program: Boot Camp for the Agency's Best and Brightest. Four years as an intelligence analyst at the CIA were profoundly fulfilling, the highlights being Francine's work on the Counter terrorism Center's investigation into the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988, and sleeping on a horsehair mattress in a Spectre-era casino in the middle of Bratislava.

Another peak moment was her chance to debrief ex-President George Bush in Houston in 1993. But what she remembers most about the place are the extraordinary intelligence and dedication of most of the staff – many of them women – many of whom cannot be named.

She wrote her first book in 1992 and left the Agency a year later. Fifteen books have followed, along with sundry children, dogs, and houses. When she's not writing, she likes to ski, garden, needlepoint, and buy art.

My Thoughts

Death on a Winter Stroll by Francine Mathews has all the ingredients for a great mystery. This is the seventh book in A Merry Folger Nantucket Mystery Book Series. The book contains politics, Hollywood and of course murder.

The main protagonists are Nantucket Police Chief Meredith Folger and her sidekick Detective Howie Seitz. The plot is of course a murder mystery involving a woman, artist Blyth Fitzpatrick, who has come back to Nantucket, no one knows she is there except her estranged son, Ansel, finds her. She is an artist who because she is dying has come back just to be defiant against her ex-husband, The house she came back to had actually been in her family, but her ex decided to take it from her in their divorce and let it go into ruin. When she is murdered, the suspects include her ex and son.

A lead actress who along with her fellow actors are on Nantucket to film a tv show. Lots of people could want her dead and it is up to Chief Merry and Howie to find the murderer. There are a lot of tourists there as it is the time of year for the Winter Stroll, a time before the holidays that is very popular on Nantucket where the streets are festive in preparation for the holidays. 

When the husband of the producer of the tv series goes missing and found murdered, Merry and Howie now have to figure out the connection of the three dead people. Two of them were killed in the same manner, shot with a shotgun. It becomes apparent that the people involved are good at keeping secrets.

This is a character driven novel, in that the reader learns about all the Hollywood people, the US Secretary of State, who is the wife of the ex-husband of one of the victims. They each have their own story to tell. Some readers may object to the language in the book, I did not think it was enough to deter me from reading the book. It is a part of life, people swear. There are a few triggers that may offend or upset some readers. Those being drug abuse, eating disorders, suicide. 

That said, I really enjoyed this book. I had had trouble getting the book on my Kindle but once I did, I had to read it. I love a good murder mystery, I liked most of the characters and it was a pretty fast read. I think if you are a fan of Francine Mathews, then you really need to read this installment. This is the first I have actually read by this author so I will definitely be reading more.

I give it 5 stars!

I received a copy of the book for review purposes.





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