Monday, October 22, 2007

Book Review: Blue Heron Marsh

Author: Douglas Quinn
Publisher: iUniverse, Inc.
ISBN: 978-0-595-45822-6

Webb Sawyer is a divorced, techno-phobic former military investigator with a troubled past. After his discharge from a U.S. Army psychiatric hospital, Webb settles at Blue Heron Marsh, where he contentedly spends his days fishing and collecting Negro Baseball League trading cards. His solitude is disturbed when he is asked to investigate a recent murder that occurred on the mainland. As Webb is drawn into the case, he realizes that the murder is connected to a forty-year-old mystery: the unexplained disappearance of a black man from his home in the middle of the night. Webb’s efforts to solve these mysteries compel him to traverse North Carolina in his dilapidated pickup truck. Throughout his journeys he reconnects with old friends, acquires vicious new enemies, and deals with the vicissitudes of sex, love and family. At the story’s resolution, Webb learns that the ways and means of justice (and love) are not always clear.

Blue Heron Marsh is an entertaining mystery that holds the reader’s attention from start to finish. Clues, solutions, red herrings and roadblocks are sprinkled generously throughout the story. Webb Sawyer is an appealing lead character and his supporting cast is similarly engaging. These are characters readers can look forward to meeting time and time again in future stories. In addition to creating strong characters, Quinn uses clear, unpretentious prose to draw the reader into his setting. The beguiling history, geography and culture of the Outer Banks make this an unusual, yet appealing, setting for a mystery series.

Notwithstanding its strong characters and setting, Blue Heron Marsh suffers from some shortcomings. First, and most seriously, the solution to the mystery is fairly obvious quite early in the story. Even so, readers will likely enjoy following Webb to the end. After all, one wants to see what he will do with the information once he catches up with the reader and “gets it.” Moreover, the reader will probably want to see if there is any hope at all for his confused love life. The second error is a factual one: the Baseball Hall of Fame is not located in Canton, Ohio, as Quinn asserts on p. 47 of his book. It is located in Cooperstown, New York. Canton is the home of the Football Hall of Fame. Finally, the book is marred, slightly, by a small assortment of spelling errors. If possible, these last two issues should be addressed in future copies of the book.

Blue Heron Marsh is the first installment of a mystery series. The second book, Pelican Point, is already in process and an excerpt is included at the end of Blue Heron Marsh. Quinn has also written other works in other genres. His experience is evident as his writing style is fluid and engaging. Mystery readers will enjoy this book and may adopt Webb Sawyer as a sleuth to follow as his career continues to unfold.

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