In The Harbor, Carla Neggers does what she really does best. Setting this novel in Goose Harbor, Maine, she portrays life in a small coastal town, using vividly depicted characters that span almost a century. Embedded within this is an unsolved murder.
A flashback details the murder of Patrick West, police chief of Goose Harbor. It also features Patrick’s aunt, 100 year old Olivia West. Olivia has written 72 novels during her lifetime - mysteries solved by a young teenage girl. She dies later on the same day as Patrick after saying she knows who killed him. The story resumes a year later.
Patrick left two daughters, Zoe and Christina, who are also the beneficiaries of Olivia’s bounty. Zoe had been a police officer and had been accepted at the FBI Academy but her father’s death left her obsessed with finding the killer. Finally, she was all but run out of Goose Harbor and found a detective position in a small town in Connecticut. Then she was fired from that, and retired to knit and milk goats.
Christina inherited sufficient funds to establish a café in Goose Harbor and she is busy balancing two men. The town local Bruce Taylor is a lobsterman and Kyle Castellane, the new guy in town who is doing a documentary of Olivia’s life. Christina has a break-in at the café and calls Zoe and asks her to come home.
Zoe arrives finding not much has changed except for the presence of J.B. McGrath who is allegedly an FBI agent on vacation. Zoe doesn’t believe this and feels the break-in and her father’s death must be related, so she resumes her search for answers. The story is peppered with the local townspeople of Zoe’s youth, and even J.B. is found to have ties with the town. What J.B. is not precisely revealing is a connection to Olivia.
The story moves very slowly, mainly because it is essentially a novel about the people of Goose Harbor. It is totally character driven with the budding romance between Zoe and J.B. not too great a factor, and the solving of the crime occurring more by accident than by design.
That said, the characters are brilliantly created; the dialogue is always in voice and crisp with a subtle overlay of humor. The scene shifts are well done and draw the reader into small town life in a coastal economy. If you chose your reading based on the ability to savor characters as they evolve in environments you know little about, then you will truly love this book.
On the other hand, if you like a fast moving suspense or romance driven novel, then you may have trouble wading through The Harbor.