The Bitter End
by Linda Hall

Wild Seas Press, 2015. ISBN 978-0-994-95500-5.
Reviewed by Pat Bean
Posted on 03/16/2016

Fiction: Mystery

Linda Hall's second Em Ridge mystery, The Bitter End, left me hoping the third in the series, due out this year, was already on the book shelves. Following on the heels of her first book, Night Watch, with female boat Captain Ridge as the protagonist, this mystery kept me in suspense and turning pages all the way to the end.

What I liked best, despite the book's unusual twists and surprises, was that everything seemed plausible, unlike a recent mystery I read in which the cavalry-like rescues and character actions were contrived and unbelievable. I say this despite the fact that The Bitter End begins in the Bermuda Triangle, where Em's sailing client, Dr. Papa Hoho, is a reality TV star who relishes conspiracy theories, and is intent on finding one.

He claims he has found one when they come upon an abandoned sailboat with only a lone cat aboard. Em, however, recognizes the cat and the boat. Both belong to her beloved Uncle Ferd, from whom she learned to sail and also inherited her love of the sea. As she looks about the boat, she discovers a note in an out-of-place book, and she believes it was meant only for her to find.

From this point forward, Em takes readers through a series of stories within stories as she attempts to discover why her uncle abandoned his beloved sailboat, and questions if he has just gone missing or if something more sinister has happened. As she delves for answers, she learns there is more to her uncle than just the kindly man of her childhood.

Hall writes with a straight-forwardness that fits Em's character well. A mature woman with her head on straight, Em finds herself coming to grips with a decades old family mystery that helps her understand her mother's anger toward her brother. It's the kind of skeleton in the closet that most families have, one which some members can accept and other members can only deny. Readers with such families, and I'm certainly one of them, can't help but relate.

As a reader who once owned a sailboat, I also related to the sea setting as Em sails her uncle's boat, Wandering Soul, from the Bermuda Triangle back to her island home in Maine, where the deadly mystery follows her.

The Bitter End stands alone, but readers of the first, Night Watch, will have a deeper understanding of this book's characters.

Linda Hall is a former journalist who also worked in the field of adult literacy and wrote curriculum materials for adults reading at basic reading levels. Her first novel, The Josiah Files, was published in 1992. She and her husband spend summers aboard their sailboat, aptly named Mystery. Hall has a senior navigator ranking, which means she knows how to use a sextant and can theoretically find her way home by looking at the stars. Visit her website.

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