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 
Length 323 pages
Format mass market paperback
Source I mooched it