Book Reviews

The one constant this summer? Lots of good books

By Lynda Rego
Posted 8/29/23

It’s been a strange summer — too wet, too dry, too hot, cool nights. The one constant has been a variety of fabulous books for summer reading. Hope you enjoy some of these before fall …

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Book Reviews

The one constant this summer? Lots of good books


It’s been a strange summer — too wet, too dry, too hot, cool nights. The one constant has been a variety of fabulous books for summer reading. Hope you enjoy some of these before fall sets in. Especially the series set in the fictional town of Little Penwick (masquerading as Little Compton).

“Glitter Girl” (2022) by James Y. Bartlett is the first book in his Swamp Yankee Mystery Series. It’s set in Little Penwick, R.I., modeled after the smallest town in the smallest state. (Anyone familiar with Little Compton will recognize all the places and touches from the church on the town common to the Stone House Club), with side trips to Portsmouth, Providence’s strip clubs, restaurants like Evelyn’s and the Capital Grille, New Bedford, Brockton and more familiar landmarks.

I wouldn’t mind spending more time with Police Chief Gus Haddock. After working as a policeman for five years under his father, Chief Julius Haddock, Gus joined the military and served in the Rangers for three tours of duty in Afghanistan.

Upon his return, he’s named interim chief of Little Penwick because the R.I. DA got his father sent to the ACI for contempt of court in a case involving a local trouble-making family, the Ferros. The patriarch of the family has disappeared and his sons claim Julius killed the old man.

Gus will have his hands full with his new job, Special Master Maggie Wells, sent by the DA to keep an eye on the department, and with the case itself. What really happened? Who’s the beautiful young woman staying at the Ferro compound? What is the DA trying to hide?

The second book, “ Cold Secrets,” follows Julius in his new career, as a private investigator (he decided to retire once freed from the ACI). His first case is a 30-year-old Little Penwick cold case involving a murdered teenager. And, he wants revenge for those who railroaded him into jail.

The third book, “Rainbow’s End,” returns to Gus and Maggie and the final chapter in the case involving the Ferros and the “Glitter Girl” and has a very satisfying resolution.

The series reminds me of two other police procedurals I especially like. Small town cop who’s a former vet with high standards, small town politics and, in this case, also shenanigans at the state level in Providence. And, of course, a romantic entanglement.

All the Rhode Island tropes are there … how it’s the “I know a guy” state, the corruption (in this case, pretty much everywhere), and how everyone knows everyone.

Bartlett lives in Tiverton and knows the territory. He’s worked in journalism most of his life, writing hundreds of pieces for all types of magazines, but also penned the Hacker Golf Mystery Series and books about golf (he was the golf columnist for Forbes FYI and Hemispheres). His historical novel, “Year of the Sheep,” about the Scottish Highland clearances, was a quarter-finalist for the BookLife Fiction Book of the Year competition in 2021.

I think he has another winner with the Swamp Yankee series. The fourth book, “Family Affairs,” just came out, and there is a prequel novella, “Rum Row,” featuring Julius’ grandfather during Prohibition in 1924.

“Killers of a Certain Age” (2022) by Deanna Raybourn. Billie Webster is part of a quartet of female assassins called Project Phoenix. The book jumps between their first assignment in 1979 and 2018, when Billie, Helen, Mary Alice and Natalie are on a luxury cruise as part of their retirement plan after 40 years on the elite assassin squad.

The Museum, as the organization that employs them is called, was created after World War II by members of elite organizations whose skills were no longer needed, but still wanted to make a difference. After hunting down the remaining Nazis, they moved on to dictators, arms dealers, drug smugglers and sex traffickers.

“We kill who we’re told and only who we’re told… We’re not sociopaths,” Billie makes clear. But, on board the ship, Billie recognizes a Museum agent. Why is he there? For them. But, why?

The 60-somethings will have to use all their skills (and the wiles that come with being older women, who are underestimated and overlooked) to get to the top of the organization and find out the truth.

I loved this book and have discovered a new author to explore.

Visit Lynda Rego on Facebook at where she shares tips on cooking, books, gardening, genealogy and other topics. Click on Like and share ideas for upcoming stories.

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.