reviewed by Gail Byrd
Jem—short for Jemima—Jago was St. Morwenna’s “bad girl” when she was a girl growing up on the island. Now she’s a young woman, a respectable librarian, who has been assigned the task of cataloguing an extensive library featuring historical documents regarding the coast of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly located on the same island.
Of course, she’s going to have to navigate all the gossiping “old biddies” who still see her as “that Jago girl,” the one everyone on the island has blamed for a twenty-year-old tragedy. She will also have to face her former best friend and her first love, something she dreads as she believes they too blamed her and none of them have spoken since she left the island at fourteen to be raised by her father.
That might be enough to overwhelm most young women, but the thrill of examining all the old texts that have been moldering for decades is the dream job for the librarian in Jem. She is determined to focus on the job and ignore all the gossip. All those plans disappear when, within the first hour of arriving on the island, Jem discovers the body of her old Nemesis, Mrs. Reddy. Of course the islanders, led by the chief of police who hates Jem, are quick to blame her for the death. While it is established that she was most likely en route to the island, not even arrived, when Mrs. Reddy died, the islanders continue to blame Jem. After all, she has been the focus of all their anger and blame for the past twenty years, what’s one more thing?
The book begins with Jem, sitting in a pub waiting for an old friend who is the current owner of the texts to be catalogued and donated. It appears she has been stood up by her friend, which leads her down the path of chastising herself for thinking things had changed. Through her inner dialogue it becomes apparent there was a significant event which occurred in her youth that tainted how almost everyone on the island felt about young Jem. Things went from bad to worse in those days when her grandmother, who was raising her, died and she had to go to Penzance to live with her father and step-mother.
Mickey, the bartender, strikes up a conversation with Jem, ultimately joining her at a back table to share dinner. As they talk, Jem explains her need to get to St. Morwenna. Micky helps her get a ride with a man who runs a ferry type service around all the Isles of Scilly in a rather decrepit boat. Another passenger, a handsome man who shares nothing about why he is there, pays to ride along so he can see all the islands in the group.
When Jem arrives on the island, she storms over to the home of her old nemesis as she believes the woman has stolen the most valuable book in the collection she is there to catalogue. When she arrives, it is clear something is drastically wrong and Jem ultimately enters the home, only to find the woman’s body. The police are called and Jem is immediately accused by the chief of being the murderer. The next morning, Jem rescues the man she shared a ride with the previous evening. This morning he borrowed a boat and got stuck on some rocks. As they sit on the beach awaiting rescue, the overwhelming events of the past 24 hours melt her defenses and when he begins to ask questions, Jem tells him her entire story. This is a significant turning point in the book as the pace of the book increases along with more information about both the past tragedy and Jem’s current activities.
Because Jem believes the Chief will find a way to arrest her for murder if the case drags on too she begins her own investigation. As she spends more time talking with people on the island, she also catches up on the lives of the people who were her best friends until the tragedy tore her childhood clique apart. There are hints of lingering love between Jem and her first boyfriend, and also hints of attraction between Jem and the new man in town. This is the first book in a new series, and it is likely these relationships will continue to develop across the series.
There are some well-drawn characters who will hopefully be part of the on-going series. From Pauly and Rhys, Jem’s childhood friends to Mickey and her uncle who owns the B&B where Jem is staying, they provide interesting depth and personality to the story. All the characters are well drawn and interesting enough most readers will enjoy learning more about them as the series continues. This is a classic style of mystery, with interesting characters, a strong plot, and enough suspense to keep the reader involved and trying to solve the mystery before Jem, if possible. The solution here was not surprising, but it was satisfying.
My thanks to Bookouture and NetGalley for providing me an advance copy to review. The opinions expressed here are entirely my own.