Life on the Vinyard ought to be quiet, but somehow things don't work out that way. West Tisbury is home to Victoria Trumbull, 92 years old, not as physically agile as she used to be, but mentally scarily sharp--and she knows nearly everyone, or at least their families and the family history. That's why Casey, the Chief of Police hired from off-island, has appointed Victoria as her deputy.
The cemetery director, also town selectman, Denny Rhodes, gets a seemingly ordinary request from a family no longer living on island to have the coffin of a family member who committed suicide ten years ago disinterred. Now that no one is left on the island, they want to move her to Wisconsin, where they are now living. Not an issue at all--until the coffin is found to be empty except for some bags of perfectly ordinary sand.
Meanwhile, Victoria's neighbor, Howland Atherton, learns that his cousin Dahlia, whom he is not fond of, is coming for an extended visit. She's retired from the Foreign Service, is suffering from cancer, and wants to be treated at the hospital in the town where she grew up. She brings with her her pet toucan, Bacchus--and Bacchus and Howland don't like each other, to say the least. Nor has Howland ever liked Dahlia. It's not long before Dahlia and Bacchus have relocated to Victoria's spare room as boarders.
But Dahlia, like the empty coffin, has her own secrets, and bodies start turning up. One's in the town dump, where a fired that had been dying down has flared up again. Another washes up on the beach. And who sent Dahlia a Brazilian tea laced with poisonous evergreen needles?
This is a wonderful little cozy, with the pace building gradually to a fine level of tension. Victoria is smart and mentally tough, and thoroughly believable. West Tisbury may have a murder rate rivaling that of Cabot Cove, Maine in the 1980s and 1990s (as all Angela Lansbury fans will recall), but like Jessica Fletcher and her neighbors, Victoria Trumbull and her neighbors are likely to make it worthwhile.
I borrowed this book from the library.