Review: Dead Man’s Island by Carolyn Hart

I have read the majority of Carolyn Hart’s more well-known Death on Demand series but being a sucker for ‘country house’ whodunnits I thought I’d give the first novel in her Henrie O series a shot.

Chase Prescott is a millionaire newspaper publisher who someone has tried to kill by poisoning some chocolate he was supposed to eat (but which killed the poor dog instead). In an effort to try to find out who the culprit was Prescott invites those members of his family and wider entourage who had the opportunity to poison him to his private island off the coast of South Carolina. In addition he asks his old friend, retired reporter Henrietta O’Dwyer Collins, to come along and work out who the potential murderer is. As if being stuck on an island with a pool of possible murderers isn’t quite enough there is also the threat of an impending hurricane.

As a classic whodunnit Dead Man’s Island works well with its interesting pool of suspects and red herrings a-plenty. Chase Prescott is deliberately unlikable (surely likable people wouldn’t have nearly as many people ready to kill them) and the various employees and family members surrounding him all have credible reasons for wanting him dead. The ultimate solution was quite clever. The additional thrills added by the increasingly bad weather are terrific; either Hart has been directly in the path of a terrible hurricane or she is impressively creative. I really felt like I was clinging on for dear life as bits of house were being whipped away by torrential rain and wind.

I thought I would like the character of Henrie O more than I did. I’m all for books featuring intelligent female characters who are over 30 but Henrie O was a bit too full of herself for me. In some ways she reminded me of the impossibly brilliant Amelia Peabody who features in Elizabeth Peters’ Egyptian series except I didn’t detect the necessary sense of humour. Unfortunately I just found Henire O had an over-inflated sense of her own intellect and abilities and I can’t imagine wanting to spend much time in her company.

Hart is a good writer of traditional mysteries and I’m sure my dislike of Henrie O is not universal so the series is worth giving a try if you’re looking for a cosy series with plenty of atmosphere.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

My rating 3/5
Publisher Bantam [1993]
ISBN 0553566075
Length 323 pages
Format mass market paperback
Source I mooched it

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5 Responses to Review: Dead Man’s Island by Carolyn Hart

  1. Bernadette – I’m intrigued just by the mention of the hurricane. I’ve lived through a few of them and they can be scary; I can see how they’d add to the tension, that’s for sure.

    And I know what you mean about a protagonist you can’t really love. I’ve read books like that, too, where the story was well-written, the mystery interesting and believable and so on, but I just couldn’t bring myself to care much for the protagonist. Well, I’ll probably give this one a go; I, too, am a sucker for a good country-house murder…


  2. I tried Henrie O., too, and just couldn’t get into her. I’ve pretty much given up on Carolyn Hart, I guess.


  3. Dorte H says:

    I´ll put the Death on demand series on my wish list instead.


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