Opening up the pages of Kathryn R. Wall's new novel St. John's Folly is like saying hello to a group of old friends. This is because the book continues the characters that have been in Wall's eleven other Bay Tanner mysteries. We last read about them in her novel Jericho Bay, which was published in 2011. Now we have something new and we can learn even more about private investigator Bay Tanner and all of her friends, relatives and associates.
Bay lives and works in Hilton Head, South Carolina. She and her husband Red are partners along with Erik Whiteside in a private investigation group Erik's fiancé Stephanie also works at the office. Bay was married to Red's brother at one time but he was killed in an explosion. After his death Red and Bay found an attraction to each other but it was stronger on Red's part than Bay's.
In this latest story Bay is approached by a man wanting to hire her group to investigate his uncle who lives on oceanfront property on the island. He fears the old man is not able to look out for himself and must be judged mentally incompetent. Bay and company are to keep a watch on the man and determine their opinion of his competence.
This appears to be a relatively simple task but soon after they are hired the old man is attacked at his home. Then there is a murder and it may also be related to the old man's situation. To further complicate things Bay finds that she has a stalker. Although she is quick to dismiss it Red is moist apprehensive about her safety.
Wall knows how to create suspense and this is one of her most intriguing and enjoyable stories. She writes with an even flow of events and manages to segue from one exciting scene to another with ease. At the same time she allows deeper glimpses into the characters, especially Bay. Wall doesn't make her heroine totally heroic or even totally likeable. She allows her to be headstrong, controlling and decidedly non-maternal. Still she is a person for whom the reader roots and basically likes in spite of her faults.
In St. John's Folly Wall paints a complete picture of the world of the low country. Hilton Head becomes as much a character in the story as Red or Erik or Stephanie. There is also a reintroduction to Lavinia, her deceased father's housekeeper who was more of a mother to Bay than her own mother was. Plus the reader also catches up on the news about Julia, Bay's half sister.
There is so much richness in the presentation of this story that the readers can lose their cares and be totally absorbed by it all. Plus through the magic of Wall's writing the passage of the last three years disappear and you are instantly back in Bay's world as if you had never left.
There is a lot of enjoyment to be had in reading St. John's Folly. Wall is a skillful spinner of tales and here you can find suspense, romance and drama as well as a smidgen of humor. So enter the world of Bay Tanner. You won't regret the choice.
St. John's Folly is published by Bella Rosa Books. It contains 276 pages and sells for $14.95.
Jackie K Cooper