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Dead in Vineyard Sand: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery    by Philip R. Craig order for
Dead in Vineyard Sand
by Philip R. Craig
Order:  USA  Can
Scribner, 2006 (2006)

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* *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

Recently retired as a Boston policeman and currently living with his wife and two children on Martha's Vineyard, Jefferson 'J.W.' Jackson has plenty of things to keep him busy. So, when Glen Norton - a friend, a wealthy neighbor, and a golf fanatic - invites Jackson to join him and two other friends for an outing at one of the local golf courses, Jackson agrees to go along even though he is not particularly enthusiastic. After all, Jackson doesn't even like golf.

But to hear Norton tell it, golf is much more than a worthwhile expenditure of four-and-a-half hours. 'You'll never have a boring day,' says Norton, 'and you'll always have something to talk about. You'll meet new people, and you can play until you've got one foot in the grave. It's the greatest game ever invented.' However, Norton's praise of a not-so-simple game is about to become more ironic than anyone could have imagined.

At the exclusive Waterwoods Golf Course, Jackson and the rest of his foursome make a startling discovery while playing the 4th hole, a beautiful, 160 yard, par 3. The body of Henry Highsmith has been buried in the sand trap. Rabid environmentalist, avid bicyclist, and highly respected (if somewhat curmudgeonly) university professor, Highsmith appears to have been shot, and someone - perhaps hoping to make a not so subtle point - has carefully placed and not really hidden the body on the prestigious golf course, one of Highsmith's most despised uses of Martha's Vineyard's increasingly threatened land and resources.

When law enforcement officials are summoned to the scene, and when the investigation begins to uncover certain facts, Jackson suddenly finds himself in an uncomfortable position. Because of a recent confrontation between Jackson and Highsmith at a local fish market - a bizarre incident during which an irrational Highsmith belligerently and inexplicably confronted but was quickly rebuffed by Jackson - investigators, of course, see Jackson as a person of interest, if not yet a suspect. To protect himself, therefore, Jackson - with local investigators watching him closely - begins a little investigation of his own. After all, if he can find out what happened to Highsmith, law enforcement authorities will stop making Jackson's life difficult.

In the course of his investigation, Jackson begins to make some startling discoveries. And what unfolds in Philip R. Craig's entertaining mystery is a provocative tale of lost innocence and murderous passions. As the body count in Dead in Vineyard Sand begins to build, there are plenty of suspects: real estate developers, golf enthusiasts, vengeful acquaintances, and others.

Lushly infused with the sights and smells of the author's beloved Martha's Vineyard, this enjoyable novel - which the island's Chamber of Commerce simply ought to love - is just in time for light, summer reading. And it even includes recipes you can use for a fun-filled feast: Lobster, Croissants, and Champagne; Asparagus Pie; and Breton Crepes with Breton Herb Butter. Enjoy!

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