Technically, this is my second summer without Philip Craig. Last year I lived in blissful ignorance as I read the eighteenth mystery in his Martha Vineyard series not knowing that he had died in May of 2007. Then I stumbled across a tribute to him written by his good friend and Boston author, William Tapply.
Whenever I needed a beach fix, Philip was there for me. The salt in the air, the seagulls and those unmistakable ocean smells and sounds were always just a page away. I’ve never tasted bluefish pate but I felt that I had and I always knew I could because that recipe and many others were included in his books. J.W. Jackson, Craig’s protagonist, always said that the pate was ‘delish’. Delish is also the name of the cookbook Craig and his wife, Shirley Craig wrote. Now some might say that J.W. and his wife Zee drank too many martinis on their second floor porch overlooking the ocean but I imagine it must be stressful solving crimes you have no business being involved in.
Reading the J.W. Jackson series was like spending time with an old friend. J.W., a Vietnam veteran and ex-Boston cop, moved back to his father’s cottage on Martha’s Vineyard. That might sound like the life of Riley but Jackson and Zee and their two small children lived on the working class side of the Vineyard. Yet they all fully appreciated living in such an idyllic location and they made me appreciate it, too.
I can’t believe that I won’t be able to visit the Jacksons any longer. Luckily, there is one last posthumous Vineyard mystery that came out this summer called Vineyard Chill. I’ve put off reading it since it means I will have to say goodbye as my relationship with Philip Craig and his Martha’s Vineyard series comes to an end.
With travel so expensive these days and prices on Martha’s Vineyard so high, it’s about time you visit the Island and give this series a try. Start with the first book, A Beautiful Place To Die, and read them all as you get to know J.W. and watch as he evolves, matures, falls in love with Zee and creates a happy family with good old fashioned values. I envy you! You have nineteen visits with J.W. to look forward to as you experience his wit, knowledge and charm and you’ll get to tag along on his fishing and beach trips and watch as he prepares ‘delish’ meals for his family. He’ll even take you along on unexpected investigative gigs on his beloved island.
You’ll also want to read the three collaborative mysteries that Craig wrote with his pal William Tapply that also take place on the Island. They feature J.W. Jackson and his family as well as Tapply’s character, Boston attorney, Brady Coyne, J.W.’s good friend. Start with First Strike.
If you enjoy mysteries that have a rustic charm and an evocative sense of place, then these books are for you. They’re all great fun, relaxing and often humorous reads and they’ll make great companions for your summer vacation-on Martha’s Vineyard, of course!