Ever wonder why all Good Old Boat book reviews are positive? It’s not because all the books we review are good. It’s not because our reviewers are kind to a fault. It’s because when a Good Old Boat book reviewer can’t recommend a book, we don’t publish the review. This means that as reviewers, we sometimes wind up reading books we don’t like (or can’t finish). That’s our lot. But it also means that we sometimes get a jewel that seems to have been written just for us.

Close-Hauled was that kind of reading pleasure for me.

This is a crime mystery filled with Southern California liveaboards, sailboats, powerboats, cruising dreams, and a victim’s body, discovered by our protagonist off the harbor jetty in the opening pages.

From there, author Rob Avery unfolds a smart whodunit with impeccable timing, dead ends, creative twists, the right pace, and a cast of salty characters who propel the story with ample dialogue.

In describing Close-Hauled to family and friends, I’ve likened it to a John D. MacDonald read, except that 40 years have passed and instead of Travis McGee on the East Coast, it’s Sim Greene on the West Coast.

Greene is a compelling character, pulled along by his pursuit of the truth through a maze of others’ lies and corruption, a pull that doesn’t always align with his best interests. And along the way he’s torn between a settled life with a woman he loves, and his boat and a life on the water he’d have to walk away from.

Close-Hauled by Rob Avery (Jack Tar Publishing, 2016; 402 pages)