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Vineyard Fear: A Martha's Vineyard Mystery    by Philip R. Craig order for
Vineyard Fear
by Philip R. Craig
Order:  USA  Can
Avon, 2004 (2004)
* *   Reviewed by Shannon Bigham

Retired professor and resident of Martha's Vineyard, Philip R. Craig, offers another mystery from his Vineyard series, featuring ex-cop Jeff 'J. W.' Jackson. J. W. has escaped the weary and dangerous days of fighting city crime to find solace on the idyllic island. He leads a simple but satisfying life that consists of fishing, working on his tan, 'odd jobs' such as selling his catch to local restaurants and markets, and keeping an eye on a professor friend's second home.

J. W. also keeps close company with a beautiful young woman named Zee. She's a nurse who contemplates leaving Martha's Vineyard to attend medical school. Zee is also considering settling down, marrying and having children, although it is unclear as to whether J. W. will be able, or even be invited, to embark with Zee on this new life. Zee announces that she will be leaving the island for a month to attend two conferences in New Hampshire, essentially to find herself. Her biological clock is ticking and while she cares for J. W. and enjoys his company, she doubts whether he is 'marriage material' and a suitable candidate for husband and father. While Zee is not central to the mystery, her relationship with J. W. adds to the enjoyment of the overall story.

The central plot concerns sudden threats to J. W.'s life that come out of nowhere. Why is he in danger and who is after him? At the book's onset, J. W.'s professor friend advises him that an assistant professor and a group of students will be staying at his home, and instructs the ex-cop to prepare for their stay. J. W. briefly meets one of the students named Bernie, who commits suicide shortly after the trip. And things start to heat up for J. W. with a trio of failed attempts on his life. At the same time, he gets involved in protecting his friend Iowa's niece, who is a victim of severe domestic abuse. As J. W. fights for his own life and tries to unravel the mystery of why he is being stalked, he's propelled off the island to Colorado. There he traverses the Rocky Mountains with the stalker on his trail, desperate to solve the puzzle before time runs out.

As in prior episodes, this one gives a detailed snapshot of life on Martha's Vineyard with a mystery intertwined. There is ample description of fishing, cooking, drinking and life in general on the island. Characters are well developed, but while the author keeps a fair pace throughout the novel, I would have preferred more action and suspense connected with J. W.'s precarious circumstances and less about his fishing. Despite this quibble, any mystery fans who are intrigued by life in Martha's Vineyard should check out Vineyard Fear.

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