Author Steven Axxelrod, Poisoned Pen Press and Partners in Crime blog Tours have been incredibly generous. In addition to a copy of Nantucket Five-Spot in exchange for a review I’m able to offer you a giveaway of a BOX of Poisoned Pen Press books through the Rafflecopter below. Also, leave a comment on this post and you’ll be entered to win a copy of Nantucket Five-Spot. TWO giveaways in one day. It doesn’t get any better than that!
by Steven Axelrod
on Tour March 1-31, 2015
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Publication Date: Jan 6, 2015
Number of Pages: 296
Henry Kennis, Nantucket island’s poetry-writing police chief who will remind readers of Robert B. Parker’s Jesse Stone and Spenser, works a second challenging case in Nantucket Five-Spot.
At the height of the summer tourist season, a threat to bomb the annual Boston Pops Concert could destroy the island’s economy, along with its cachet as a safe, if mostly summer-time, haven for America’s ruling class. The threat of terrorism brings The Department of Homeland Security to the island, along with prospects for a rekindled love affair –Henry’s lost love works for the DHS now.
The “terrorism” aspects of the attack prove to be a red herring. The truth lies much closer to home. At first suspicion falls on local carpenter Billy Delavane, but Henry investigates the case and proves that Billy is being framed. Then it turns out that Henry’s new suspect is also being framed –for the bizarre and almost undetectable crime of framing someone else. Every piece of evidence works three ways in the investigation of a crime rooted in betrayed friendship, infidelity, and the quiet poisonous feuds of small town life. Henry traces the origin of the attacks back almost twenty years and uncovers an obsessive revenge conspiracy that he must unravel –now alone, discredited and on the run –before further disaster strikes.
Read an excerpt:
Finally, I was having dinner alone with Franny Tate. It was a mild summer night, we were dining at Cru, overlooking Nantucket harbor. I was leaning across the table to kiss her when the first bomb went off.
A hole punched into the air, a muffled thump that bypassed my ears and smacked straight into my stomach, like those ominous fireworks that flash once and leave no sparks. The blast wave hit a second later, shaking tables and knocking over glasses, rattling windows in their frames. Franny mouthed the word ‘bomb,’ her lips parting in silence and pressing together again, not wanting to say the word aloud, or thinking I couldn’t hear her through the veil of trembling air.
I pushed my chair back, pointing toward the Steamboat Wharf. We ran out into a night tattered by running feet and sirens.
Our romantic evening lay across the stained tablecloth behind us, tipped over and shattered with the restaurant stemware.
Something bad had arrived on my little island, an evil alert, a violation and a threat like a dog with its throat cut dropped on a front parlor rug. It was up to me and my officers to answer that threat, to make sense of it and set things right. I didn’t explain this to Franny. I didn’t need to. She was running right beside me.
At that point, I thought it all began with the first bomb threat, two weeks earlier, but I wasn’t even close. It takes a long time to make a bomb from scratch. Lighting the fuse is the quick part.
I can tell you the exact moment when the match touched the cord, though.
It was a bright humid morning in June. An eleven-year-old girl named Deborah Garrison stepped off the boat from Hyannis and skipped ahead of her mother down into the crowded seaside streets. As it happened, I was at the Steamship Authority that morning, picking up my assistant chief, Haden Krakauer. We actually saw Debbie in her pony tails and Justin Bieber t-shirt.
She didn’t seem special, just another adorable little girl on a holiday island crowded with them.
And Debbie didn’t actually do anything. Nothing that happened later was her fault. The simple, irreducible fact of her presence was enough. Even years later, the consequences and implications of Debbie’s arrival seem bizarre and implausible, far too weighty to balance on those thin sunburned shoulders.
It was like setting off an avalanche with a sigh.
The next time I saw Debbie, it was a week later and she was holding hands with my friend Billy Delavane when he came to the station to report a stolen wallet. She’d been tagging along with him everywhere, since the day she came to Nantucket. They had met in the surf at Madaket when he pulled her out of the white water after a bad wipeout.
“She’d launch on anything, but she kept slipping,” Billy told me later. “She couldn’t figure it out. No one told her she had to wax the board.”
She was happy to let Billy get everything organized and push her into some smaller waves and even happier to share a cup of hot chocolate with a few other kids at Billy’s beach shack when hypothermia set in.
They’d been inseparable ever since.
Barnaby Toll took Billy’s stolen property report and then buzzed my office. He knew I’d be pleased that Billy had shown up at “Valhalla” as he liked to call it. Billy had been one of the more vocal opponents of the new police station, dragging himself to several Town Meetings and fidgeting through all the boring warrant articles to take his stand against the giant new facility on Fairgrounds Road.
I understood his point. I had been against the construction myself, initially. But, like driving in a luxury car or eating at good restaurants, I adapted to the change shockingly fast. Now I couldn’t imagine working in the cramped crumbling building on South Water Street.
I found the two downstairs in the administration conference room.
Billy tilted his head as I walked in. “Nice place. Lots of parking.
In America, where nothing else matters.”
I ignored him, looking down. “Who’s this?”
Debbie spoke up without waiting for him. I liked that.
“Debbie Garrison.” She extended her hand and I tipped down a little to shake it.
“Police Chief Henry Kennis.”
“Glad to meet you, Chief Kennis. Can I have a tour? I think this place is awesome.”
“Absolutely. How old are you?”
“Eleven,” Billy volunteered.
“I’ll be twelve in September,” Debbie corrected him.
“That’s my son’s age,” I said. “You should meet him.”
“Most eleven-year-old boys are extremely immature.”
I let that one go and offered Debbie my arm. “Shall we?”
“Yay!” She grabbed my hand and led me into the corridor.
“Can we see the jail cells?”
The place was buzzing on a June morning. We had Girl Scouts gathering in the selectman’s meeting room and people milling in the front lobby, complaining about the neighbors’ noise violations and picking up over-sand stickers. Last night’s DUIs, the unlicensed, uninsured, or unregistered drivers (a couple of them always hit the trifecta).
On the way down to the booking room I asked Debbie what she thought so far.
“Well, the upstairs where we came in reminds me of a mall. That hole in the ceiling where you can see up to the second floor? I was like—is there a GAP store up there? This part is more like my school. But nicer.”
“Well, it’s new.”
“New is good,” she announced decisively and I thought,you’ve come to the right place.
“So are you spending a lot of time with Billy?” We pushed through into the booking room. It was crowded, phones were ringing. A bald geezer who looked like he was constructed out of sinew and tattoo ink was being hustled inside from the garage. Debbie stared at him. He was obviously sloshed out of his mind at ten in the morning.
I took her hand and led her around the big horseshoe-shaped desk toward the holding cells. “Debbie?”
“Billy? You’re spending a lot of time with him?”
“That guy is creepy.”
“He’s sad. His kid was killed in Afghanistan. He drinks a lot, that’s all.”
“Ugh. Those tattoos.”
“They’re bad.” She’d probably have one herself by the time she was sixteen, but you can always hope.
She moved on. “Billy’s great.” Then, “What’s behind that door?”
I followed her gaze to the corner. “That’s our padded cell.”
“For crazy people?”
“Well…for people who might try to hurt themselves.”
“Cool! Can I see it?”
We went inside. “Padded” is a slight exaggeration—the beige walls and floor have the consistency of a pencil eraser. “Billy’s not like I expected.” She pushed the walls, bouncing tentatively on the balls of her feet. “I mean, he’s not crazy or dangerous or anything.”
“Who told you he was dangerous?”
“Oh, I don’t know…just—people.”
“They were probably talking about his brother, Ed, who actually is crazy. And dangerous. But he’s going to be in jail for a long, long time. So I wouldn’t worry about him.”
“Billy is so the opposite of that. He wouldn’t hurt anyone. I mean, he’s sad about all the changes here, but he knows he can’t stop them. He’s not like some kind of terrorist or anything.”
I put a hand on her shoulder to stop the bouncing. “Debbie.”
She looked up at me. “Someone’s been calling Billy Delavane a terrorist?”
“I don’t know. I guess so. It’s just—people talk. People say stupid stuff all the time. Gossip and stuff.”
“I guess. But you’ve only been here a week, and you’re already hearing hardcore gossip about Billy Delavane? I don’t see how that’s possible. Are the kids talking about him?”
“The kids love him.”
“Then who? Your mother? Your mother’s friends?”
The idea of her talking to her mother’s friends was obviously so crazy only a clueless grown-up could entertain it.
We went to the jail cells next, three for the women and six for the men, simple rooms with built-in stainless steel sinks and toilets and a blue cement slab bed. The men’s side was full, so I walked her into the women’s block which was empty for the moment.
Debbie pointed at one of the slabs. “How can anyone sleep on that?”
“We have special bedding, but people don’t usually stay here overnight.”
“What’s that for?” She was looking at the stainless steel rail than ran along the length of the slab, eight inches off the floor.
“That’s called a Murphy bar—it’s for handcuffing people.”
“Oooo.” She shuddered
Steven Axelrod holds an MFA in writing from Vermont College of the Fine Arts and remains a member of the WGA despite a long absence from Hollywood. His work has been featured on various websites, including the literary e-zine Numéro Cinq, where he is on the masthead. His work has also appeared at Salon.com and The GoodMen Project, as well as the magazines PulpModern and BigPulp. A father of two, he lives on Nantucket Island, Massachusetts, where he paints houses and writes, often at the same time, much to the annoyance of his customers.
At first, I was not enjoying the timeline for Nantucket Five-Spot. Parts of it were in the present, parts of it were ten weeks ago, five years ago, two hours ago. Happily all the jumps to the past were clearly labeled so you weren’t flailing around wondering what time period you were in. As I continued to read I realized that this jumping from time to time, although confusing, was a great way to mirror the confusion Police Chief Henry Kennis felt during the investigation. Just like Henry, you the reader are getting bits of information here, there, from different time periods and trying to slide everything into the right spot.
This was book two in the series and it wasn’t difficult to jump into Book 2 but you may find yourself wanting to read Book 1 also. Although the first section of the book is heavy on investigation/stand-offs by competing law enforcement agencies (locals vs. state police vs. Homeland Security vs. FBI), once the action starts it doesn’t let up. I love that these guys that seem like they are barely capable of patrolling the 4th of July parade really step up to the plate and finally begin working together once they have a common enemy.
The setting details are great, making the book more memorable, funny and occasionally beautiful.