Protagonist Emmeline “Em” Ridge is a boat delivery captain of limited experience. Newly widowed, her husband having died in a kayak accident, she lives on a tidal island just east of Portland, Maine, doing boat deliveries and charters. She also runs afoul of mysterious situations, which form the plots of this series of novels by sailor Linda Hall: Night Watch, The Bitter End, The Devil to Pay. This is my review of all three, in turn.
In Night Watch, the first book in the series, Em is offered a wonderful job, sailing a 52-foot Morris ketch to Bermuda for Roy Patterson, the wealthy owner. There is a catch: his daughter, “Kricket,” will be coming along.
The trip begins. Captain Ridge has two dependable crew, one newbie, and Kricket. Then, in the middle watch, Kricket disappears, the PIW response is fumbled, and a body is recovered…
What unfolds is a well-crafted mystery with clever twists and reveals. Things are not what they seem, people are not whom they appear. There is murder, good luck, poor marksmanship, and an intense quest. How can this deliciously twisty plot get straightened out?
In Bitter End, our series protagonist is captaining a charter for a daft television celebrity who believes Bermuda Triangle stories, among other things. Then, there is the boat found afloat off Florida…
Here starts an adventure to learn what happened. Deeply buried family secrets are revealed, a sailboat chase with the bad guy, and finally…truth.
I think the third book in the series is the best. Devil to Pay opens with a panicked message from a friend, a SCUBA diving death, and sailboat deliveries. A maelstrom of deception ensues, with Captain Em in a desperate bid to learn what is going on. At the story’s climax, I found myself shouting, “Don’t do that!”
In all three stories, Em gets assistance from a collection of sailing friends and neighbors. (My favorite: EJ, an old codger with a porch full of charcoal cookers. He will eat vegetables, as long as they’ve been cooked with a pot roast until they taste like meat.) Also on hand is Ben Dunlinson, a police officer newly arrived from Montana with personal baggage of his own. His and Em’s relationship shifts into something like a romance novel as the series proceeds. The tides along the Maine coast where the story is set also play a significant role.
Night Watch, Bitter End, and Devil to Pay are pretty good reads, with a sailor as heroine, good characters, and satisfying nautical plots to unravel.