Verdict: DEAD ON THE DOCK is an ideal beach read - a page-turning murder mystery with a stellar protagonist. Lee Harding is Nancy Drew all grown up (and on drugs).
Charming foul-mouthed, pot-smoking amateur detective seeks solace from marital difficulties at her family’s cabin on Lake Montego. When her peaceful retreat is interrupted by the discovery of the body of a camp newcomer, Lee and the police investigate the other lodgers and find motives among nearly everyone.
Before her untimely death, Emily English had established herself as a caustic and meddlesome figure at camp but Lee is unaware of the lengths of her duplicity until she begins piecing together the evidence. The night of the murder, Lee and friends take a raucous, drunken canoe ride that provides an alibi for some and marks others as conspicuous in their absence. The ensuing intrigue includes adultery, allegations of blackmail and theft, and somewhat tedious camp politics involving the distribution of cabins via lottery system. Lee’s adept sleuthing skills lead her to the truth, but not before uncovering the unsavory deeds of her closest friends.
While the ending may not be a big surprise, it is certainly fun getting there. The plot is laid out well as suspicion falls on a number of likely suspects. Lee Harding is a fully-developed character, tenacious and funny and it is a delight to inhabit her mind. Her only flaw is a repeated pro-marijuana, anti-prescription drug tirade that is clearly the author interjecting her own politics into the narrative. Even if one agrees with her position, by the third or fourth time it becomes an annoying distraction. Everett’s supporting cast is a little too crowded and inconsistent, some characters are well-established, some are just more names to keep track of. Harding’s best camp friend Luanne is rendered best, a down-to-earth pistol of a woman whose “only cosmetic was zinc.” This knack for astute description allows Everett to capture the camp atmosphere richly for all the senses, describing “the string section of crickets, the bass sung by frogs on the shore, and the wind instruments of the cicadas” and the lake “as smooth as draped silk.”
DEAD ON THE DOCK is an ideal beach read – a page-turning murder mystery with a stellar protagonist. Lee Harding is Nancy Drew all grown up (and on drugs).