Shiver Hitch is New York Times Best Selling Author Linda Greenlaw’s third Jane Bunker mystery. The first was Slipknot (2007) and the second was Fisherman’s Bend (2008), both of which I read and enjoyed. Fans have had to wait nine long years for this new entry in Greenlaw’s Maine-based series.
If you’re not familiar with this mystery series, but Greenlaw’s name rings a bell it’s because she was thrown into the national spotlight due to Sebastian Junger’s 1997 bestselling book The Perfect Storm and movie of the same name (both are excellent). Greenlaw was the swordboat captain of the Hannah Boden the sister ship of the Andrea Gail which disappeared without a trace in 1991 during the “storm of the century.” Greenlaw is also the author of seven non-fiction books, including her first, The Hungry Ocean: A Swordboat Captain’s Journey (1999).
Greenlaw’s sleuth, Jane Bunker, was born in Acadia, Maine and grew up in Miami, Florida. After her life in Miami as a detective falls apart she moves to Maine to start over. She’s working two jobs, as an insurance investigator and as an assistant deputy sheriff. At the opening of Shiver Hitch, she’s sent to Acadia Island wearing her insurance investigator hat to assess a house fire. At first, the fire seems rather cut and dry—an accidental fire caused by a frozen ground heave that breaks a gas line—until Jane stumbles upon the remains of a body. On goes her assistant sheriff hat.
The mystery that follows is one that expertly uses Greenlaw’s personal knowledge of Down East Maine culture, including the lobster industry and the current opioid epidemic that’s “mowing kids down like a serial killer on steroids.” A new lobster business run by a woman everyone dislikes and that’s staffed by ex-convicts is driving down property values and frightening locals and folks who own seasonal homes. Year-rounders whose families have lived on Acadia Island for decades have relied on “island justice.” They’ve taken things into their own hands to the point that law enforcement has traditionally stayed away. But not anymore with Jane Bunker on the scene.
Although the murder victim died in a horrific manner (off stage), there’s not a lot of violence in this novel. It’s a solid, well-paced mystery with plenty of local flavor and intriguing elements for a mystery (I learned much about the lobster industry). There is a family element to the novel that’s a little too neatly depicted but is a refreshing departure from the typical love interest sub-story that’s depicted in many mysteries that feature a female sleuth.
I like Jane’s independence, the Maine setting, and the nautical elements, all of which ring true. Greenlaw’s writing is strongest when she’s describing locals, Maine, and especially what it’s like to be aboard ship. I hope we fans won’t have to wait as long for a fourth entry in the series.
Title: Shiver Hitch
Author: Linda Greenlaw
Publisher: Minotaur Books, On Sale June 6, 2017
Source: Review copy from publisher
Bottom line: A perfect summer read for those who like mysteries with a strong sense of place that is intimately connected to its criminal element, a strong female protagonist, and light on gratuitous violence or sex.