Reviewed by Jim Napier
At long last Spring has made its appearance, and we Canadians can emerge from the darkness of our caves to enjoy the sun, warmer weather, and the great outdoors. Just the time for some light reading, something to sit on the patio and enjoy, or if you’re really lucky to take to the beach or even on a cruise; and Canadian crime writer Judy Penz Sheluk has thoughtfully come up with a timely tale that nicely fits the bill. The second in her Glass Dolphin Mystery Series, A Hole in One chronicles the misadventures of antique dealer Arabella Carpenter when for one poor soul (and then another) the supremely leisurely and civilized sport of golf proves to be a fatal attraction.
In a small town near Toronto, the Miakoda Falls Golf and Country Club is hosting a charity golf tournament titled Kids Come First. It’s a shotgun-style event in which the players all begin on different holes at the same time, making the tournament faster to complete, and leaving ample time for a silent auction and socializing. With a somewhat literal turn of mind, event organizer Gilly Germaine is using an actual shotgun to begin the competition.
Local entrepreneur Arabella Carpenter is the co-owner of the Glass Dolphin Antiques Shop. She and her business partner Emily Garland are sponsoring a hole-in-one contest on the third hole, the prize a brand new jet-ski. Beyond her budget to pay for such a costly prize, Arabella has taken out an insurance policy in the event that someone actually shoots a hole in one, with a representative of the insurance company on site to ensure that everything is on the up-and-up. Levon Larroquette, Arabella’s ex, and like her an antique picker, is acting as course marshal for the event.
Shortly before the players are scheduled to tee off a noise is heard. Some think it’s the sound of a shotgun, but Gilly Germaine insists the weapon is locked safely away in the clubhouse. But when Arabella’s foursome set off to begin the match they arrive at the third hole to find a dead man in the brush nearby. The course marshall is able to identify the victim: it’s his own (and long-missing) father, Marc Larroquette.
When they summon the police the drawbacks of living in a small town become apparent. Two officers show up: one is Detective Sheridan Merryfield; the other is officer Aaron Beecham, whom Arabella had been recently dating—until she split up with him.
The victim’s son is an obvious suspect, but when the police question him, Levon Larroquette insists he last saw his father twenty-four years ago. Arabella knows differently: she’d seen Levon in a local park, talking with his father only a couple of days earlier.
What follows is a well-constructed, well-paced mystery tale, grounded in an eclectic cast of characters who make up the village or who have dropped by for the event. There is local real estate agent Poppy Spencer, who has a more-than-casual fondness for alcohol; Kerri St. Amour, editor of the local newspaper; Trent Norland, who represents the insurance company underwriting the hole-in-one competition; police constable Sarah Byrne; criminal defense lawyer Isla Kampenfelt,; a mysterious man with a tattoo; an Elvis impersonator; and others waiting to be discovered by the reader.
The author is clearly a golfer herself, or at least a knowledgeable fan. Her account of the tournament will resonate with golfers, just as her description of the interactions among the denizens of small communities will strike a chord with anyone who has spent any time in such settings.
A puzzling murder set against a believable portrait of village life, A Hole in One is a fun read that is perfectly paced, and an inviting alternative to more pedestrian pursuits such as raking the leaves or mowing the lawn. What more can I say?
A Hole in One is published by Barking Rain Press.
Jim Napier is a professional crime-fiction reviewer based in Canada. Since 2005 his book reviews and author interviews have been featured in several Canadian newspapers and on multiple websites, and his own crime novel Legacy was published in April 2017. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org