Thursday, May 03, 2007

Mystery Book Review: Island Blues by Wendy Howell Mills

Mysterious ReviewsMysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written a review of Island Blues by Wendy Howell Mills. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.Island Blues by Wendy Howell Mills

Island Blues by
A Sabrina Dunsweeney Mystery

Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-59058-396-5 (1590583965)
ISBN-13: 978-1-59058-396-8 (9781590583968)
Publication Date: April 2007
List Price: $24.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): Sabrina Dunsweeney desperately needs a job. After moving to isolated Comico Island with her parakeet Calvin to start a new chapter of her life, Sabrina is discovering that life in a beautiful, tropical environment isn’t all fun and games.

When the town council offers her employment as the island’s first official ombudsman to cope with the burgeoning tourist influx, Sabrina is thrilled. Her first order of business is to deal with a number of burglaries. But as she digs deeper into the theftless break-ins, she begins to suspect that this mystery originated in the rum-soaked days of prohibition.

Then, Sabrina must face the “Hummers” who have booked a week at one of the local hotels. The Hummers claim that they can hear a hum that no one else can, and they believe they can only rid themselves of the annoying, persistent noise by following very private rituals.

When the spokesman of the Hummers is murdered, Sabrina develops a theory that makes her the target of a killer’s rage. Will survive her first week on the job?

Review: Island Blues is the second mystery in this series by Wendy Howell Mills that features former Cincinnati native Sabrina Dunsweeney. The series is set on fictional Comico Island, situated (presumably) somewhere in the Caribbean though its actual location is not important to the story.

Idyllic Comico Island is experiencing both the joy and pain of increased tourist trade. To investigate and attempt to resolve local complaints and problems, Sabrina is hired as the island's ombudsman. First up: a number of burglaries that are unique in that nothing is missing have the authorities puzzled. Could these break-ins have anything to do with an organization representing "Hummers", people who hear a persistent noise likened to a diesel motor idling, who have booked a local hotel for the week? When Sabrina asks what the hum is, the spokesman for the organization replies matter-of-factly, "the voice of the universe".

That same spokesman is later found murdered on a nearby isolated island offering Sabrina an opportunity to use her amateur sleuthing skills. Though the story tends to meander in places and the back stories are at times unnecessarily confusing, Mills does a fine job keeping the reader's interest while Sabrina goes about gathering information that will help her solve both the puzzle of the burglaries and the mystery of the murder.

The cast of characters, while decidedly odd and just a little bit exaggerated, is for the most part sympathetic and endearing. And the book concludes in an unexpected, thought-provoking way. It's a nice touch.

Island Blues likely won't appeal to all traditional mystery fans, but it is a pleasant way to escape the real world for a while.

Special thanks to Poisoned Pen Press for providing an ARC of Island Blues for this review.

Review Copyright © 2007 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved.

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