Saturday, January 14, 2023

Death in the Off Season: Francine Mathews

In Death in the Off-Season, Merry Folger is a new detective in the Nantucket police, working under her father. The death of Rusty Mason, whose family was prominent in Nantucket years before, is her first murder case. 

Rusty Mason's body is found in a cranberry bog on land that belongs to his younger brother Peter. The two brothers have been estranged for years, and Rusty has not even been living in the US during that time. Peter is the only family member who still has a presence on Nantucket. 

Merry is very much aware that everyone is watching her as she works the case because she is the chief's daughter and it is her first murder case. Some want her to fail; some don't think women can handle the job. Merry cannot decide if Peter Mason is a suspect for the murder of his brother, or if he was the intended victim, which complicates things. 

My thoughts:

This was the first novel that Mathews wrote, part of the Merry Folger Nantucket Mystery series. Four of the novels were published between 1994 and 1998. Later Soho Press asked her to write a fifth book in the series; Mathews returned to the first four books and edited them so that the fifth book could pick up where the last one ended (without a twenty year gap). The fifth book, Death on Nantucket, was published in 2016 and there are now seven books in the series. That an author would want to edit earlier books like that seemed strange to me but I certainly enjoyed this book; it was one of my favorite books of 2022. 

Police procedural novels are a favorite mystery sub-genre of mine. This one had additional elements that I enjoyed:

  • A determined young female detective working for her father in a small town where everyone knows you.
  • A family with a lot of secrets. 
  • Many interesting characters and relationships. 

The writing kept me interested and involved throughout, and the ending was very satisfying. I loved the Nantucket setting.

I have had this book on my shelf since 2016, part of a stack of books published by Soho Press. It wasn't until Judith at Reader in the Wilderness brought it to my attention HERE and HERE that I finally read it.


Publisher:   Soho Crime, 2016
Length:       356 pages
Format:      Trade paperback
Series:        Merry Folger Nantucket Mystery #1
Setting:       Nantucket, Massachusetts, USA
Genre:        Police procedural
Source:      On my TBR since 2016.


Cath said...

I might try this series but gosh, fancy re-editing the previous books like that. How odd. I like a New England setting, I have to say. Just finished a spooky crime yarn set in Vermont and absolutely loved it. So nice to have a five star read after two books that were less than impressive.

TracyK said...

Cath, I know what you mean about reading two books in a row that don't agree with you. I like New England settings in books also; the only state in that area I have visited at all was Connecticut, and that was a business trip.

Francine Mathews is also the author of the Jane Austen mysteries under the name Stephanie Barron, and a good number of standalone books.

Margot Kinberg said...

I have to admit, Tracy, this is a series I haven't tried (yet). Like you, I enjoy a good police procedural, so it's good to hear this one worked for you. I especially like a solid, strong female protagonist, and the setting appeals to me, too. It sounds as though it's well-depicted here.

TracyK said...

Margot, the book has a lot going for it, and I hope the rest of the books are just as good. The female protagonist was very well developed.

Cath said...

Oh, how interesting that Francine Mathews is Stephanie Barron! I've had the first in that Jane Austen series on mt tbr pile for 'yonks' and keep meaning to read it but you know how it is...

We did a mini tour of several New England states back in 1996, tavelling up from Pittsburgh with friends to visit Niagara Falls and then leaving them to cross NY State and drive into New England via Vermont and New Hampshire. We also saw a bit of Massachusetts and Connecticut. I'd love to go back but can't see it happening now with Peter's health/mobility being so uncertain.

TracyK said...

Cath, I know exactly how that is. I would like to try the Jane Austen mysteries again, I have read two of them. But don't know when that will happen.

A driving tour of New England states sounds really good, especially starting with Niagara Falls. The only times I have been on a road trip in the US was from Alabama to California or California to Alabama. So I have seen bits of New Mexico, more of Texas (lived there once for three months), and Louisiana and Mississippi. (And intervening states, but we never stopped in any of them.) We did visit New Orleans twice and have fond memories. However, we no longer have the desire for long trips and airplane trips are totally out.

Lark said...

That Nantucket setting is a fun one. And Merry sounds like a great character; I don't read a lot of police procedurals, but I enjoy them when they've got a main character I can like and root for.

TracyK said...

Lark, one reason I like police procedural novels is because I can more easily believe in police officers investigating and solving crimes than most other professions. But I like all kinds, and this one follows procedure but it also delves into the lives of many of the characters. More character driven than plot driven, I guess. And the setting is a big plus.

Judith said...

Hi Tracy,
I am so glad that you enjoyed Death in the Off Season. It makes me realize that I must put #3 in the series on my list this year. Of course I read the latest out of order, Death on a Winter Stroll, but it didn't seem to cause a problem. So, onward!

TracyK said...

It was fantastic, Judith, it went beyond my expectations. I will be getting the next couple of books in the series.