A surprise visit from a dear old friend only adds to the joys of good weather, great fishing, warm breezes and loving family for J. W. Jackson this idyllic island summer. The ex-Boston cop is thrilled to see accomplished bluesman Corrie Appleyard strolling up his driveway, guitar case in hand. But days later, J.W.'s elation turns to dread when a rundown summer shack burns to the ground the latest in a string of suspicious fires. And when an unidentified corpse is discovered in the ashes, J. W. fears that the charred remains are Corrie's. Now twin obligations to friendship and the truth are leading him into an ugly morass of arson, extortion, secrets, and murder. And he'll go to the dangerous ends of paradise to bring a killer to justice because this outrage has slammed J. W. Jackson in the heart.
About the Author
Philip R. Craig grew up on a small cattle ranch near Durango, Colorado, before going off to college at Boston University, where he was an All-American fencer. He earned his M.F.A. at the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop. A recently retired professor of English at Wheelock College in Boston, he and his wife Shirley now live year-round on Martha's Vineyard.
Read an Excerpt
The first time I saw Corrie Appleyard I was about five years old. I woke up hearing music late at night and came downstairs and found him and my father sitting in the kitchen of our house in Somerville, picking at their guitars while Corrie sang. The next time was about a year later in a dingy bar somewhere in Boston. My father, my sister, and I were at a table and Corrie was on the little stage, sitting on a high stool behind a mike, playing and singing. I remember that it was a smoky, smelly, noisy place and that I was drinking an orange soda, and that we were the only kids there, but I don't recall much else. Later, Corrie used to come to our house whenever he was in the Boston area, and a couple of times he came to my father's cottage on the Vineyard. Then I didn't see him anymore until June this past summer, when he came walking out of the past down our long, sandy driveway.
Zee and I and the kids were in the yard loafing under the warm blue June sky when Diana stopped running around and stared up the driveway, then moved over to her mom. Zee and I turned our heads and there was Corrie walking toward us, satchel in one hand, guitar case in the other. I hadn't seen him in more than thirty years, but I recognized him instantly. At first, he didn't seem to have changed at all, but then he'd always looked ancient to me, being older, even, than my father.
Now, though, he really did have some years stacked on his shoulders. His skin was still that same coffee color, but now it was lined and his hair was mostly gray, as was the mustache and beard that once had been black as tar.There was a hint of illness in his face, but though his step wasn't quite as light as it once had been, it wasn't an old man's shuffle, either. It was the stride of a man who had walked a lot and still had places to go.
He hesitated as I stood up from my lawn chair, but then came on.
"Who could that be?" asked Zee, giving cautious Diana a hand to hold.
"That's Corrie Appleyard," I said, feeling happy. I went to meet him and put out my hand. "Corrie," I said. "My God, it's good to see you."
He put down the satchel and squinted at me as he took my hand. "You got the edge on me, young fella. Who might you be?"
"I'm J. W. Jackson. Roosevelt's son. You used to come to our house in Somerville and you came here once or twice, too."
His smile was as white as ocean foam. "Little Jeff. You've growed up some. Well, I'll tell you, Jeff, I happen to be on the island, so I thought I'd come and see your daddy." He looked at the house. "My, my, this place has changed quite a bit."
I picked up the satchel. "It was mostly just a hunting camp when you were here, but now it's getting closer to being a house. You won't find my dad, I'm afraid. He died a number of years ago. But come on, I want you to meet my wife, Zee."
He walked beside me, "Rosy, dead? I'm sorry to hear it."
"It was a warehouse fire. A wall fell on him and a couple of other firemen. Almost twenty years ago, now. My sister's married and living out near Santa Fe, and I'm right here. We sold the Somerville place."
He shook his head. "Twenty years. Time does fly."
We came to where Zee and Diana were standing. Zee, wearing shorts and a shirt tied around her flat, tanned belly, held Diana's head pressed against her with one hand, while Diana wrapped both arms around her mother's sleek thigh and eyeballed Corrie, trying to decide whether he was friend or foe.
"Zee," I said. "This is Corrie Appleyard. Corrie, this is my wife, Zee."
Their hands met and their smiles gleamed. "How do you do, Mrs. Jackson?"
"Call me Zee, Mr. Appleyard."
His head dipped and rose. "Zee, then. And I'm Corrie. I knew your husband's father, and Jeff, here, when he wasn't much older than that lad over yonder, I do believe that you're the first Zee I've known."
"It's short for Zeolinda. My people are Portuguese."
"And Corrie's short for Cortland. My people are mostly African originally, with little bits of this and that mixed in over the years. And who might this be?"
"This is my daughter, Diana. And that guy over there is her big brother, Joshua. Joshua, come and meet Corrie."
Joshua, who had been taking things in from the far side of the yard, came and accepted Corrie's hand.
"How do you do?" said Corrie.
"I'm fine. Nice to meet you," said Joshua, just the way he'd been taught.
"You shake hands, too," said Zee to Diana, "and say hello."
Diana let go of her mother's leg with one hand and held it out. "Hello," she said.
"Hello, Diana." Corrie's big brown fingers enveloped her small pudgy ones.,
Diana retrieved her hand and again wrapped her arm around Zee's leg. Her eyes went to Corrie's battered, sticker-covered guitar case. "I know what's in there."
"What?" asked Corrie.
"You're right," said Corrie, acting impressed. "How did you know?"
"My pa's got one. He plays it sometimes."
"Does he, now." Corrie looked at me.
I nodded. "I have two, actually. My dad's old Martin, and a Gibson I got at a yard sale for thirty bucks...
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I have totally loved the Jackson series by Craig. I read the entire series in less than a month.I can not wait for the next mystery,who knows what J.W. will find himself into next time. This is simple enough reading, nothing to complex, most enjoyable!
J.W. Jackson used to be a soldier before an injury forced him out of the service. He joined the Boston Police Department before a bullet forced an early retirement. He next moved to Martha¿s Vineyard to escape most of the evil element that permeates much of the world. He married a nurse and they had children who now teach how to be a good person. J.W. accepts temporary work whenever he can find it while Zee works a shift at the local hospital. They are not wealthy, but are happy. When a slumlord asks J.W. to learn the identity of the arson torching his buildings, he reluctantly accepts the job. Ben Krane is a bail bondsman, lawyer, and real estate developer. He rents property that is not up to standard to college students looking to have a good time. J.W. finds a host of suspects, but no one he can clearly accuse. As he digs deeper, he begins to elarn things about people close to him that he would have preferred not to know. Sometimes a well-written story contains no obvious villains or heroes just human beings trying to do the right thing in an imperfect world. Phillip R. Craig shows he is a potent storyteller by accomplishing just that with VINEYARD BLUES, a tale with quite an impact on the reader. J.W. is an enigmatic yet likable person who the audience will find appealing. The children¿s interactions with the adults ring true and add depth to an emotionally charged story line that will help make this novel a triumph for Mr. Craig. Harriet Klausner