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Book Author: Francine Mathews

DEATH ON A WINTER STROLL by Francine Mathews: Book Review

The Christmas Stroll on Nantucket Island, off the coast of Massachusetts, is deservedly famous.  It’s a nearly fifty-year-old tradition that brings visitors from surrounding communities, states, and even foreign countries to celebrate the beginning of the holiday season.  Santa arrives by Coast Guard cutter and leads the parade that winds through town to the Christmas tree.

Although this is Meredith Folger’s second year as the island’s chief of police, it’s the first time she’s responsible for public safety during the Stroll; it was canceled the previous year due to Covid.  The virus is still present, of course, as evidenced by the number of people wearing masks and greeting each other with fist bumps instead of handshakes and hugs.  But it has been decided by the town authorities that it was time to hold the event again, so the police force is readying itself.

This year there’s an added wrinkle or two, those wrinkles being the arrivals of both a film crew from Hollywood and the Secretary of State and her family.  The Hollywood group is here to film The Hopeless, a television production starring super-star Chris Candler and his co-star Marni McGuin.  The Secretary, Janet Brimhold McKay, is on island with her husband and stepson to promote the president’s idea of Family Time.  Both groups have brought significant problems and secrets with them, and violence will occur as a result.

The Hollywood group includes Vic Sonnenfeld, founder of the extremely successful Creative Management International; his wife Carly, producer of the television series who is dependent on her husband’s wealth to bankroll the program; the above-mentioned Chris Cander, world-famous action star trying to remake himself as a serious actor; his daughter Winter, a teenager attempting to recover from an eating disorder; and a variety of crew members.

The people surrounding Janet Brimhold McKay consist of her husband, Rob McKay, a political consultant; his son Ansel, a young man recently out of a drug rehab program; and Micheline, Janet’s personal assistant.

The stars and their entourages are living on the twelve-acre compound called Ingrid’s Gift, owned by Mike Struna, Carly’s friend from their college days in New York.  Mike, who made his fortune in IT, has loaned the mega-mansion to the Hollywood people during their stay on Nantucket, while the Washingtonians are settled in Stronghold, the home for generations of Brimholds.

And there’s one more person with a major role in the novel, Mary Alice Fillmore.  Mary Alice was the former wife of Rob McKay and the mother of Ansel, and she’s long been presumed dead.  In fact, she’s been living on Nantucket for several years, and there is a visitor to the island who is aware of that.

Merry Folger has big boots to fill, as both her father and grandfather were chiefs of police on Nantucket.  Now, in the midst of the tourist invasion, Merry is faced with two murders.

In addition to the seven books in the Merry Folger series and six stand-alone mysteries, Francine Mathews writes the Jane Austen Mystery Series under the pseudonym Stephanie Barron, a combination of her middle name and her maiden name.  You can read more about her at this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden OldiesPast Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.