Picking up after the conclusion of Silent Witness, Dead Calm by Shirley Wells is the fourth book in the Dylan Scott Mystery series, and this time takes the form of a novella.
Along with his wife Bev, their two children Freya and Luke and Dylan’s mother Vicky, the Scott family are taking a family cruise aboard the Midnight Sun. This cruise in the middle of November is a freezing cold expedition to Norway in order to see the Northern Lights, a trip which Dylan was not overly happy about undertaking. However, he wants to keep Bev happy, and his hippy mother is always up for new experiences.
After resorting to the bar for a well-earned drink, Dylan returns to his cabin only to find elderly Hanna Larsen struggling to work the key card for her cabin next door. Dylan helps her to enter, receiving very little thanks and finding Hanna to be a stubborn old bat with the desire to complain about every little detail of her voyage. She grumbles about the fact that she has had to change room as the cruise company messed up her booking and failed to give her a room with a balcony.
Finally getting some sleep after this altercation in the corridor, Dylan wakes at around three a.m. to hear someone leaving Hanna Larsen’s room. Thinking nothing of it, he goes back to sleep only to wake up to the news that Hanna has died in the night. Everyone states that she died of a heart attack, having had a history of heart problems, but Dylan is not so sure.
Despite Bev’s pleas for him to abandon his theories and just enjoy their holiday, Dylan turns investigative and begins to question the guests that appear to have known Hanna personally. He finds out that a chemical company wanted to buy her land to build a road for easier access to their factory, and it just so happens that the two sons of the company’s owner are onboard. Corporate firms can be pretty desperate to get their own way, but would they really kill an old lady?
Then there is the dilemma of the room switch, as the woman who would have been staying there was Ruby Jackson, the widow of a millionaire businessman whose son is also onboard. His business is in dire straits and he has asked his mother for some money, but she is a firm believer in her children achieving things by themselves and not relying on parental handouts.
With a list of potential suspects for both Ruby and Hanna, Dylan has taken on the task of narrowing down the list whilst trying to keep his investigation under wraps. He is trying not to draw too much attention to himself, but inevitably there are those who are suspicious of him and this places his family in danger. Will Dylan be able to figure out who the murderer really is before any harm comes to his family?
Again I really enjoyed this series, and despite being a novella I didn’t get the feeling that the plot was rushed, and with the characters already being well-established in previous books there were no issues of character development. I liked how the investigation was quick and to the point, with there being a limited time period for Dylan to solve the case on the cruise. His interactions with both Bev and his mother were amusing as always, as it was clear he had very little control over the holiday and how his money was being spent.
With it being only a novella there wasn’t the time to develop the characters of all of the suspects, but we are still given an in-depth insight into their motives and suspicious actions. I was surprised at the ending, as I only had a slight inkling of who the murderer was and hadn’t guessed the full extent of the plot. The conclusion was a little extreme, but I wasn’t expecting anything overly serious from this novella and enjoyed the book just the same.
Well-written as always, this novella made an excellent mini addition to the series and I really loved the way Dylan’s family/work balance is portrayed. In this book it was the first time that his family had been threatened, and this added an extra dimension to Dylan’s character as we get to see how fiercely protective he is of them and that he will do whatever it takes to protect them. This novella satisfied my taste for the series, but I can’t wait for the welcome return to Dawson’s Clough in book five and a full-size novel!
Another great addition to the Dylan Scott Mystery series, this short novella was quick and to the point without losing any of the magic of the previous books. The home/work balance was further maintained here, and the idea that Dylan’s family would be placed in danger added to the excitement. A refreshing break from the familiar setting of Dawson’s Clough, but I can’t wait to return there for book five.
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Dead Calm by Shirley Wells
(A Dylan Scott Mystery #4)
Mystery & Detective
Carina Press (June 2012)
Ebook: 109 pages