Mitch Grant has released his second book, "The Cut Bait Murders," in the Pine Island-themed series of St. James City murder mysteries.
Grant's first book, "The Popping Cork Murder," was featured in the Eagle last October. In "The Cut Bait Murders," once again St. James residents Jim and Jill Story take the reader on an adventure to catch the killers.
Jim and Jill are retired bankers who found their ideal house to retire to on this "quaint little drinking island with a fishing problem." The Storys settled into typical Pine Island living: fishing, bicycling, dining and drinking - that is, until people start disappearing. It's a safe bet Jim and Jill never expected this much excitement when they retired to St. James City.
In the first book by Grant, "The Popping Cork Murder," it was their good friend Javier who was found dead on his rented boat. In "The Cut Bait Murders" there are several mysterious deaths and disappearances.
For readers that have never been to Pine Island, Grant spends time describing the fine details of the island, its residents and their favorite restaurants and bars. The Storys begin their latest mystery having lunch at Mulletville Restaurant on Matlacha. Grant writes: "I love the name of this little restaurant. Mulletville was what they used to call the town of Matlacha before it acquired its more fashionable name. So, in some ways, the restaurant's moniker is a reminder of, and a throwback to, life in a different era. And so is the restaurant. It's plain. None of the tables, chairs, or booths really match, and the floor is bare concrete. All of that would be enough to turn off a lot of people, but it reminds me of some of the places I used to eat 50 years ago. I guess that's why I like it. That, and the food!"
Mulletville Restaurant is where they learn victim #1 is missing. Alan Scharnow, a line cook at the Waterfront restaurant in St. James City, has disappeared. One day he didn't come to work, and no one had seen or heard from him since.
While having lunch at Woody's, the Storys learn about the "new clinic up in Little Bokeelia." It seems a Spanish doctor has purchased Little Bokeelia Island for an estimated $30 million and opened a clinic - not a clinic providing medical services to the public but a private clinic for "high-rollers." Jim is intrigued with the mysterious island and makes a trip there where he finds signs saying "Private Island Do Not Approach Violators Will Be Apprehended" and armed guards.
Grant also spends time detailing not just the waters surrounding Pine Island but the great fishing.
"The old timers always said, 'If you see white butterflies, it's time to fish for tarpon,' and I had noticed white butterflies all day. The tide chart showed that there was going to be a strong incoming tide in the afternoon. I figured it was a good time as any to put the white butterfly myth to the test."
Two days after a party Jim, Jill and his friend Kenny attended, Jim and Kenny go fishing in the channel near Sanibel Island.
"By five thirty we were anchored in twenty-one feet of water in the channel by Sanibel. We were fishing with cut bait, large pieces of Spanish mackerel, embedded on forged fourteen-aught circle hooks, medium-heavy rods, five thousand series reels, fifty-pound braided line, with hundred pound mono leaders... strong tackle for a strong fish."
In a short time Kenny hooks something heavy. He knows it's not a fish because there isn't any fight just dead weight. What Kenny pulls up is the remains of a badly decomposed body. Once the body surfaces Jim recognizes a tattoo on the mans arm as the same man he saw at the party two night ago. An obvious victim of murder ,Jim contacts the Lee County Sheriff's Office and asks for his old friend Lt. Mike Collins.
When Jim Story and Mike Collins get together a few days later, Collins is convinced the disappearances and the corpse are somehow linked to a recently busted drug ring. Jim isn't so sure he believes the mysterious island and the Spanish doctor have something to with it.
Just like the "Popping Cork Murder," Grant takes the reader through the island's favorite restaurants and bars: Low Key Tiki, Woody's, Lazy Flamingo, Waterfront, Froggy's and even the American Legion (the police even look for a body in the pond behind the Legion).
The one difference between "The Popping Cork Murder" and "The Cut Bait Murders" is the story line is smoother. Both are good reading, especially for Pine Islanders.
Grant describes his books: "My books combine classic Florida mystery fiction with my passion for Florida life in a way that's sure to appeal to visitors to Southwest Florida, fisherman, boaters, retirees and mystery fans of all ages."
Mitch Grant will have a book signing at Woody's in St. James City Saturday, May 17, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
"The Cut Bait Murders" is available in softcover on Amazon.com. It is also available locally at Island Decor and More (Matlacha), Cup Cake Express (Bokeelia), Little Lilly's Deli (Bokeelia), Monroe Canal Marina (St. James City) and Castaways Realty (St. James City).