"I've always thought that Matlacha, the funky Pine Island, Fla., fishing village cum art colony, would be a perfect setting for a mystery, when along comes Jessie Murphy, the perfect gal to sort out the riff from the raff of it all. You've got to love this lady, a Goodwill fashion queen, who comes across as a ditzy airhead whose best buddy is a Gargoyle named Gar."
Books about the islands on the southwest coast of Florida have become common through the writings of local authors Mitch Grant, DL Havlin and Robert Macomber. Pine Islanders can now add JD Daniels to the list.
Daniels' fiction and poetry have appeared in various literary publications. She received a prize for poetry from Emerson College/Cambridge University, is listed in the Iowa Arts and Poets & Writers directories and is an active member of PEN Women of Southwest Florida. "Through Pelican Eyes" is Daniels first novel. It is a "cozy mystery" set in Pine Island and Matlacha.
The book begins with the central character, Jessie Murphy, a property manager and wannabe artist, driving into Matlacha to reconnect with her boyfriend, Will Rolins. Rolins, living on a trust fund, has become a treasure hunter and is looking for treasure in Matlacha and Pine Island. When Murphy arrives she learns Rolins has committed suicide - at least that's what the police say it is - case closed! But Murphy can't believe that Rolins would even own a gun, much less shoot himself. She is convinced it was murder. Whether it was personal, came out of a confrontation or two, or about a possible treasure Rolins found, would be revealed.
The setting and flavor of these beautiful islands is captured with alluring descriptions: "Staying in a small motel on Matlacha Island, like many of the other commercial buildings was painted royal blue, red and yellow. The one-story building was surrounded by Matlacha Pass on three sides. A wrap-around dock was fitted with Aderondack chairs painted in brilliant yellow, green, purple and blue. Each chair back had been sawn into a fish shape."
Pine Islanders will recognize many of the local landmarks: Bert's Bar and Grill, Cap'n Con's, Matlacha Bridge, The Perfect Cup, Little Lilly's Island Deli, the Museum of the Islands and several others are included in the book as part of the story line.
The one thing that will keep readers interested in any book is the cast of characters. Daniels has plenty to keep a reader's interest.
Those ficticious locals include:
n Rose Thompson, a waitress at Bert's Bar and Grill. Big smile, missing incisor, carrot red hair, was the Number 1 suspect. A devout pro-lifer (Will was pro choice) ... did she murder Rolins because of his stance on abortion?
n Judge Harold Lakewood and his wife Esther Lakewood. Murphy detects jealousy on the part of the Judge when Mrs. Lakewood reveals she had a meeting with Rolins and without the judge. Is it possible Judge Lakewood murdered Rolins?
Another suspect is sculptor Jay Mann, "a deeply tanned man with a scar across his nose, thick neck and a shaved head..." Murphy finds suspicious gold coins (possibly treasure from Rolins discovery) inside his gallery. Did Mann kill Rolins for the treasure?
"Through Pelican Eyes" is the first in a planned series of Jessie Murphy mysteries.
It's an easy read and a great page-turner that will capture the reader's interest within the first few pages. Most readers will complete "Through Pelican Eyes" in a sitting or two.