Jane Bunker thought she’d escaped the pollution, noise, and dead bodies of the big city when she left her job as a Miami homicide detective and moved back to the idyllic town of Green Haven, Maine. But through her work as a marine insurance investigator, it appears she’s left behind the bustle of the city, but not the murder.
When Jane is called to the remote Acadia Island to assess the damages from a house fire, she also finds a badly burned body in the charred rubble, and it turns out that the victim is the owner of the house, a wealthy woman who just happens to be one of the most hated women in town. As Jane investigates further, she becomes embroiled in a plot as thick as New England clam chowder, which involves convicted felons, a real estate scam, and the deep conflicts between the locals and the summer folks. On top of trying to find what might be a murderer on the loose, Jane is still living with her bonkers landlords, the Vickersons, who are delighted when Jane finds out that her brother Wally (who has Down’s syndrome) is going to move in with them, after losing his assisted living arrangement. It’s all Jane can do to keep all the moving pieces together, much less figure out who would want to burn someone alive—and why.
In Greenlaw's insipid third Jane Bunker mystery (after 2008's Fisherman's Bend), Jane's boss at Marine Insurance Consultants Company tasks the 43-year-old claims investigator and assistant deputy sheriff with surveying fire damage done to a home on Maine's Acadia Island. Jane finds the charred corpse of owner Midge Kohl among the building's ruins, but assumes that the death and conflagration were accidental. What little evidence she collects, however, points to arson and Midge's likely murder. Despite her shoddy detective skills (and the fact that Maine sheriffs' departments don't investigate homicides), the Hancock County sheriff places Jane in charge of the case, asserting that the former Miami cop has more experience in "such things" than "even the Maine State Police." Nasty weather, tight-lipped locals, and spotty cell phone service complicate Jane's efforts. Greenlaw a fisherwoman and bestselling nonfiction author writes evocatively about small-town life and harsh Maine winters, but her novel's strong sense of place fails to compensate for its uneven tone, preposterous plotting, and two-dimensional characters.