Black Swan , by Chris Knopf. Publisher: The Permanent Press (May 2, 2011). Mystery. Hardcover, 256 pages.
Hi-tech, wealthy island enclaves and sailing factor into the intrigue of Black Swan. This is the fifth Sam Acquillo Hamptons Mystery yet it’s my first. My mom read and enjoyed all the others. For some reason, I decided to give this one a shot and it didn’t disappoint. Warmer weather often means lighter reads such as mysteries. Set on the exclusive and wealthy Fishers Island, Black Swan includes all the elements for an engulfing read: money, power and unpredictable weather.
A general rule for writing is to write what you know. Author Chris Knopf worked as a PR executive and wrote various copy which serves him well in his mystery writing–particularly technical papers about chemical engineering and biotech companies. He prefers to be close to the surf, dividing his time between Connecticut and Southampton, NY. And apparently so does his amateur sleuth Sam Acquillo.
I’d always known this about Fishers Island. At the easternmost reach of Long Island’s North Fork, it’s a place that doesn’t want you there. Three-quarters private, gated club populated by the oldest money in the country, the other quarter a mix of merely wealthy summer people and year-round locals who fully shared in the island’s rabid xenophobia.
While sailing back to New York from Maine, Sam Acquillo must suddenly dock in the nearest harbor when the boat falters and needs to be repaired. Sam, his long-term partner Amanda and his dog Eddie find themselves in the unwelcome setting of off-season Fishers Island, a haven for the uber-wealthy. The exclusive year-rounders aren’t eager to assist Sam with his boating issues. Anika Fey, the daughter of the new owner of the Black Swan hotel, proves to be the only one interested in harboring Sam’s boat because she’s immediately attracted to the strong, quiet former engineer turned skilled carpenter.
As Sam fixes the yacht and waits out the storm, he finds himself involved in an “intricate tale of technological imbroglio.” Sam has unique connections, a sharp wit and an unflappable spirit. He’s so laid back that his girlfriend Amanda gets flummoxed by his commitment issue or inability to have a more solid relationship. He tells her: “I’m lousy at the conventions of intimate relationships.” There’s something eerie happening to the Fey family and Sam cannot leave Fishers Island until he’s figured it out. Is Anika a flirt or a manipulator? Who wants to hurt Axel Fey, Anika’s awkward genius brother? And what kind of trouble does Christian Fey really have with his mega company?
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