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Book Reviews

Milt Gross Book Review: "Fisherman's Bend" by Linda Greenlaw
By Milton M. Gross
Oct 14, 2012 - 7:22:46 AM

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Fisherman's Bend is a good mystery, has great cliff hangers, but is terrible concerning the geography of the Maine coast. *

Having lived in Maine for 46 years and on or near the coast for some 30 of those 46, I found the author's apparent poor knowledge to be both confusing and made me wonder if Linda Greenlaw ever visited the coast of Maine.

That really confuses me, because the book jacket of this 2008 ocean- and coast-set mystery states that Greenlaw lives on Isle au Haut. It also states she is captain of a lobster boat. How can someone who lives on an island ten or 12 miles out in the ocean off Stonington not know in detail the coast of Maine.

Check this out, if you know anything about Maine, her lead character, "Jane," plans to drive from her home, the fictional Green Harbor somewhere in Knox County near Rockland to Eastport in Washington County in about two hours. That's somewhere around 200 miles, which I think would make for rather fast driving. Further, the only place "Jane" knows where she can buy gasoline for her old Plymouth Duster is Ellsworth.

Something wrong with that.

Her operating a lobster boat fits well, as her description of ocean-going vessels, the feel of waves lifting and dropping it, and the technical details of the boats themselves and how they operate are really great.

That knowledge and description made me cling to the book, so it wouldn't get swept overboard by Tom, our 17-pound black cat, each time he leaped onto or from my lap. It also made me read carefully, because I've been on just enough boats and yachts on the same ocean to appreciate the accuracy of that part of the novel. It also carried me back to those boating adventures.

For the record, although I'm a woods guy who loves Maine's trails and mountains, the most relaxing week of my life was when my son-in-law brought me on his yacht from Connecticut to Falmouth -- the latter of which I am familiar with and can describe fairly well.

What should have been my most disconcerting ocean "voyage" was our family trip to Squirrel Island from Boothbay Harbor on a small tourist boat. It broke down fairly far out in the harbor, and the captain announced that we were adrift at sea.

Yup, with the coast and islands right there in plane site. We were rescued, although I can't remember the long-ago details of what must have been a fairly routine rescue.

"The deck swayed beneath me as Cal rounded a buoy, causing me to brace my left leg......A weathered red navigational buoy, number "4," suddenly appeared at the edge of my peripheral vision, and then bobbed its matronly figure in the small swells we had caused," is a sample of Greenlaw's graphic boat and ocean descriptions.

They make this book hard to put down, even to watch the next TV rerun.

Writing in the first person, the easiest form of fiction in which to write, "Jane" is on a boat surveying the bottom of Cobscook Bay in Eastport for a company that wanted to lease a portion of the bay in which to create an oyster farm. She is a marine insurance investigator, helping in the survey.

"Jane" is also a Knox County Sheriff's Deputy, which opens difficulties not covered in the novel. A Knox County deputy has no jurisdiction in Washington County, where Cobscook Bay is located. Very little legal knowledge is needed for one to know that. Why "Jane" wasn't a Washington County deputy puzzles me, as that would have been a lot more legitimate.

Maybe if you've seen one county, you've seen them all.

Anyway, the well-written mystery begins when the survey boat comes across an empty lobster boat. Involved also is a dead body with a nautical spear for spearing bait having been plunged into the body.

Unraveling who dunnit -- or more accurately who done a couple of "it's" is fairly good mystery writing. Not as good as some but better than others.

A strong point of Greenlaw's writing is the use of old-fashioned cliff hangers at the end of each chapter, forcing you to turn the page to the next chapter.

The climax is Robert-Parker style, with our heroine's life narrowly saved from the bad guy by two others breaking into the apartment and rescuing her. A puzzle to me, however, is how the two friends know to break into the apartment. In the last paragraph, "Jane" says that they "got my signal." I know I'm not the brightest of the not too bright, but looking back through the previous pages failed my finding the "signal." So I still don't know how the friends knew to rescue "Jane."

My own mystery about the mystery.

There is no direct connection between the title, Fisherman's Bend, the picture of a fisherman's bend on the cover, and the story itself. But the picture is kind of interesting. A fisherman's bend is a nautical knot. Milt Gross photo.

* You can probably find the hardback Fisherman's Bend in a bookstore or online at $24.95, the price listed on the bookjacket. It was published by Hyperion, 77 West 66th Street, New York, NY 10023-6298. Greenlaw also wrote The Hungry Ocean, The Lobster Chronicles, and All Fishermen Are Liars, according to an inside cover page.

Milt Gross can be reached for corrections, harassment, or other purposes at

Milton M. Gross Copyright 2012

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Milt Gross Book Reviews

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