A sailor herself since she was 17 years old, St. Paul Minnesota author Jenifer LeClair has rigged her first novel in her Windjammer Series into a winning combination of psychological thriller, police procedural, and action adventure. It's a five-star launch for her aptly named sea-going series and hopefully a precursor for an armada of others to follow.
At thirty-six, Brie Beaumont, as LeClair tells it, has got twelve years of service as a veteran detective with the Minneapolis Police Force. She's recovering from the trauma of a shooting in which her partner was killed and she's bearing the burden of guilt. Now with a leave of absence, she's returned to her childhood summertime solace at seaside Maine on a windjammer cruise to hopefully heal her psyche and wash away her burden. But it doesn't work that way when a murder occurs on board the windjammer "Maine Wind" where she's a passenger and she's forced into the detective's role she was hoping to escape. With only long distance police backup from Minneapolis but no direct access to the CSI technology available there, she now has to revert to her basic instincts and fundamental Sherlockian techniques to assess clues, question the eight passengers and crew on the jammer, analyze them and herself and conclude who had the means, motive and opportunity to impale the victim with the marlin spike found in his chest during an overnight storm. Within the close confines of the ship and a nearby island where they shelter from the storm, Brie believes, "At least the killer can't escape; nowhere to go." And so it seems as she interviews each of the passengers and crew, each with his or her stories to tell, sometimes forthrightly, sometimes tripped up by their own lies about voyeurism, homosexuality, womanizing, jealousy, or past lives, and sometimes caught in Brie's net as she toys with a piece of frayed rope, making and unmaking sailors' knots, trying to unravel the strands of her past or tie down her currently surging feelings for ship's captain John Dulac. It's a process in which she discovers that "finding the truth was somewhat like sifting through sand looking for salt." And while she seeks and sifts, the sea whips around the ship and the island retreat with moods as varied and unpredictable as the motives that wash over the novel's characters and sail them towards a surprisingly action-packed and riveting ending.
Tightly written and intricately constructed, LeClair's "Rigged for Murder" is first-class storytelling in a setting so authentic you can hear the ocean's roar and taste the salt from the sea.
M. Wayne Cunningham