A novel beach find

Jean Stone continues her Vineyard series with ‘A Vineyard Morning.’

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Protagonist Annie Sutton in Jean Stone’s eminently readable new novel “A Vineyard Morning” has a problem — well actually, a lot of them.

Finally settled in her adopted Island home, she has a whole lot on her plate. As a bestselling author, Annie is under pressure to complete her newest mystery novel. She, her half-brother Kevin, and Earl, the father of her very appealing Edgartown Police sergeant boyfriend, are rushing to finish building an inn on Chappy for a Memorial Day opening, which bears down upon them with guests booked and three year-rounders expecting to move in long-term. 

Unfortunately, while combing the beach with her boyfriend’s daughter for natural treasures to decorate the inn, they come across a skull nestled in some seaweed. This find puts a halt on all the renovations until it is clear if it is recent or ancient. Any remains dating from before 1492 are considered indigenous, and if it is determined that the inn’s property is a burial ground, it would be considered sacred ground and become the jurisdiction of the local tribe. And it would be no picnic if the skull ended up being contemporary, as it could possibly be the father of one of the ancillary characters, who some believe was pushed overboard by his mother years before. Deeply in debt, everyone is holding their breath, and the pressure mounts.

The timing could not be worse as Annie’s birth mother Donna, whom she barely knows and has mixed feelings about, is insisting on coming to visit her and Kevin, which displaces Annie from her cottage and disrupts her ability to write. And this is no mere social visit. Donna has an agenda, it seems, and not a happy one, it turns out.

This is the third novel in Stone’s Vineyard series (Stone coordinates the book group at Edgartown library with Lisa Sherman), and we greedily catch up on her characters, who have appeared before, and their assorted tribulations. But don’t worry if you haven’t read the previous books. Stone draws each person so adeptly and provides enough background information that it is clear what baggage each carries around.

Stone shares, “The inspiration for ‘A Vineyard Morning’ actually came from my characters (perhaps I’ve been hunkered down in my house too long), or at least from their personal challenges, backstories, and the relationships they’ve built with others through the previous two books. As always, I try to imagine what kinds of real-life situations might add to their layers as ‘human beings’ and help them evolve into ‘real’ people whom my readers might want to either hang out with or boot out of their lives — situations that will help them grow and change.”

The successful specificity of Annie’s human community extends to her vividly realistic description of the Vineyard towns, stores, and restaurants so that it almost feels like this story is unfolding for real, just down-Island from us.

Edgartown library is hosting a Zoom author’s talk on Tuesday, Feb. 16, at 7 pm, with invitations available by contacting programs@edgartownlibrary.org. “A Vineyard Morning” by Jean Stone is available online and at Bunch of Grapes.