By Diane Ketcham
Tidelow Press 2013, 302 pages
In Naples: Paradise Can Be Deadly we find that it can also be romantic, wicked, petty, fashionable and wryly humorous. This book is an absolute delight to read. Those of us who live locally will find a certain heightened satisfaction in the familiar locales, but knowing the Naples area is not at all necessary. Ms. Ketcham rivets the reader with multiple story threads interspersed with twists, as well as a loop or two, infusing humor in all the right places. The resolution is credible, leaving no loose ends; she laces all those threads together and hints at things to come!
The book opens with a man on a white horse being murdered after stumbling upon two people “cavorting” in a field on his way home from a date. We know by the sense of panic felt by the rider on the white horse that the man with the young female must be someone of power and authority. When he kills the white horse as well as the rider, we know this is one horrendous baddie. As the story develops, every male character of power and authority becomes suspect as they are introduced. We know it has to be one of them!
When we meet journalist Agatha Jasmine Billings (aka Jazz and A.J.), she is spot cleaning a white carpet that her black Lab Willie has soiled, recalling that “diarrhea” topped a list of commonly misspelled words. She and Willie are still acclimating to Naples, having recently relocated from New York to join A.J.’s love interest, James Whitman, a candidate for the local congressional seat. The election is a tough one and A.J. has taken a leave of absence from the New York Tribune to help “Wit” with campaigning. She is also writing a book.
After one of the twin teenaged daughters of Wit’s friend Carson Wicklow is murdered, Jazz re-dons her reporter hat. Under the guise of doing a human interest story on the remaining twin, Chasen Wicklow, for the New York Tribune, she sets off to investigate some people and places she finds intriguing. Cara, the murdered twin, was a student at a very exclusive girls’ school near Ave Maria, but Chasen lived at home with their father. Cara had not been home to visit in at least a year. When Jazz visits the school, Triesen, things get “curiouser and curiouser.”
Naples: Paradise Can Be Deadly is a 300-page romp through the Naples area. Condos and their associations/regulations, the beaches of course, including the doggie beach at Lovers Key where Willie finds true love, Ave Maria, Marco Island, the pronunciation of “Tamiami Trail,” which is mispronounced by a newcomer as “tah-miami” and local lore including the Australian Pines at Delnor-Wiggins.
The author uses sly humor generously to balance out the dramatic story line involving Triesen. For example, her mother’s sign-off from their phone conversations: “’Me too, Bye bye, love.’ ‘Bye bye happiness,’ I said to myself as I did every time my mother ended the conversation that way.” (Everly Brothers song.)
For more about this Naples author, see her website, www.dianeketcham.com. This book is also published locally: www.tidelowpress.com/Author.html. It is available in hardcover, Kindle and Nook. At present, it is not in the public library’s catalog.
If you need a break from the holiday whirl, this mystery book will intrigue you and make you laugh. I am betting you will want to share it with your holiday visitors.