Book Review of A Bone in Her Teeth by Ann McAllister Clark

The title of this first mystery novel immediately caught my attention! Moreover, the cover shows a houseboat on its way in from the ocean … at night. A houseboat? What is going on here? I had to buy the book and read it to find out.

Front cover of A Bone in Her Teeth

The back cover states a bone in her teeth is an old nautical term for a vessel with a prominent white wave at her bow as she’s well underway. Or as the Sea Talk Nautical Dictionary puts it, “… a boat sailing with exhilarating speed so as to create a prominent bow wave.”

“Fast-paced” and “exhilarating” apply to this story. Family feuds being what they are and having spent time in Michigan myself, I was drawn in by the plot beginnings of widowed Anna Wells being unjustly accused of a crime by her own brother, a guy who fancies himself a lawyer. She is banished with no warning to St. Augustine, Florida on the basis that she has only hours to get out of her brother’s life, and their recently deceased Aunt Marty has left a house in which she can live.

After seeing a few cottages in the general area she has reached in St. Augustine, Anna discovers that Marty’s house is anything but a cottage. It is a rundown, 1950s-outfitted houseboat, moored in Safety Harbor Marina. For a landlubber, this is an incredibly depressing way to start a new life. But wait! The marina is filled with feisty characters from the rougher layers of society, some of them a delight and others deadly. The story weaves through segments of their checkered pasts, while Anna discovers she has walked into a world of deceit, antiquarian book theft and murder after murder. She has to learn who, if anyone, she can trust.

Due to her past experience of having owned a bookstore with her deceased husband, Anna is able to find work at a bookstore that seems to have been plucked right out of 19th century England. The plot twists, and then gets murkier and more deadly as the evil thickens. Surprises end the novel, bringing satisfaction and a measure of redemption for those who needed it, but not for Anna’s brother. His time has not yet come. Bone’s Epilogue is nothing short of exuberant.

St. Augustine’s past is colorful and controversial and continues to this day. Having recently celebrated its 500th anniversary (Juan Ponce de Leon claimed the area for Spain in 1513), there is no lack of tourists to boost the economy. There are surely no lack of stories to continue this series of mysteries set amid the charm and ongoing upheavals of St. Augustine. A pink ribbon on the author’s blog subtly indicates she has been dealing with serious illness. Her most recent quote: Life sometimes has a way of temporarily slowing us down. It’s how we get up that counts can well apply to all writers. Plenty of excited Ann McAllister Clark readers wish her well and hope the next book is underway.

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