A surprise visit from a dear old friend only adds to the joys of good weather, great fishing, warm breezes, and loving family for J.W. Jackson this idyllic island summer. The ex-Boston cop is thrilled to see accomplished bluesman Corrie Appleyard strolling up his driveway, guitar case in hand. But days later, J.W.’s elation turns to dread when a rundown summer shack burns to the ground—the latest in a string of suspicious fires. And when an unidentified corpse is discovered in the ashes, J.W. fears that the charred remains are Corrie’s. Now twin obligations to friendship and the truth are leading him into an ugly tangle of arson, extortion, secrets, and murder. And he’ll go to the dangerous ends of paradise to bring a killer to justice.
Despite a propitious start, Craig's latest offering in the Vineyard series soon degrades into a dull tale hampered by cardboard characters and a simplistic plot. Former Boston cop J.W. Jackson, the easy-going narrator, is surprised and pleased to see an old friend of his father's, Corrie Appleyard, stroll up his Martha's Vineyard driveway. Corrie, a blues guitarist who has come to the island for a few small gigs, renews his friendship with J.W., whom he hasn't seen in 30 years. After an enjoyable evening with J.W. and his wife, Zee, Corrie returns to his lodging, a house owned by slumlord Ben Krane. Several days later, as Corrie is about to return to the mainland, that house burns to the ground with an unidentified body inside. Suspecting arson, the third against one of his rental properties, Krane hires Jackson to investigate, despite their unexplained mutual animosity. Jackson, meanwhile, fearing that a now-missing Corrie is the arson victim, has been asked by friend Susanna to help identify the man who has been harassing her over the phone about her former life in the porn industry. The premise for both plots is solid enough, but Jackson's irritatingly perfect wife and children are too unrealistic to be believed, while other characters lack personality. Predictable endings to both mysteries cap off a disappointing novel in which the only remaining question is how many times the Jackson children get taken for ice cream.