The Sin Mark

by Margaret Page Hood – published 1963.    Although this is the last in the Fox Island books, its kind of a prequel as Gil Donan isn’t yet on Fox Island. He is mentioned once as having applied for the job as constable for the island.

Tom Caldwell was an off-islander who bought the island, Rolling Stone, and lived there for several years.  He left the island more than 50 years ago under a cloud of mystery and sin, living in sin there with local girl Mariah Winslow who had a large,dark red birthmark on the side of her face, a sin mark, according to the islanders. But every year the tax money for the island arrived nice and neat. Any extra left after the taxes were paid was to go to Mariah who lived alone on the island. Now Tom has died (Mariah three years earlier) and Fernald Clayter, selectman, has received a letter from the lawyer. Tom has set up a fund, interest to be used to pay the taxes on Rolling Stone, property to remain in the name of his estate, not to be sold, and trespassing forbidden. He’s left $25,000 to the township on Fox Island to be used at the discretion of the resident doctor for the benefit of children handicapped by disfigurement or with physical disability. BUT there’s a provisional. A separate letter was sent to the minister with instructions for the provisional, which was to be announced at a town meeting. And thus begins the gossip, anger and accusation throwing that turns the whole town on its head.

I don’t want to tell too much of the story as I’d rather it unfold for you as you read it, and I definitely recommend it as well as all of Hood’s mysteries. There is a great mystery that happened on Rolling Stone that precipitated Tom leaving the island suddenly and Mariah living on there alone and hermit like the rest of her life. Not only does this provisional bring about the truth of what happened on Rolling Stone nearly 50 years ago, but brings to the surface other ‘sins’ hiding on the island among its people. A little different from most mysteries, but fascinating! And of course there’s Hood’s beautiful use of language, sense of place and characters with meat on them.

My mom always sang Go Tell Aunt Rhody to the kids when she would rock them, but she only ever sang part of it and I never did know the whole thing. Mariah sang it in the book and now I know what happened to Aunt Rhody and the old gray goose!

                 Go tell Aunt Rhody, go tell Aunt Rhody,  Go tell Aunt Rhody the old gray goose is dead. She’s worth savin’, she’s worth savin’, she’s worth savin’, to fill a featherbed.

I’ve tried to find a picture of the cover of this book as my old hardback doesn’t have the dust jacket but I couldn’t find not one picture of a cover! I did find a copy of this book for sale at Abebooks that says it included the dust jacket in good condition, so the book drunkard that I am, I had to buy it so I could have the dust jacket and see the cover! But it won’t be here for a couple weeks. All her other books had lovely covers. She wrote one more book, Tequila, set in New Mexico. I’ve ordered it and now I’ll have all her books. I’ve tried and tried to find out info on her online and nothing. But yesterday I found correspondence between her and a woman with the Maine State Library on Maine State Library State Documents. They were written between October 1950 and April 1963. Fascinating! She gave her biography at the request of the woman. I took screen shots of the letter from Ms. Hood and will share it here for you. You can read all the letters here if you like. Ms. Hood was born in Connecticut 1892 and died in 1983, I assume in New Mexico.  Her Great Grandfather lived next door to the Longfellow family in Maine!

Update! I got the book with the dust jacket and now have a picture of the cover! Here it is…

FullSizeRender-7

This book counts towards The Vintage Cover Scavenger Hunt @Bev’s My Readers Block. Silver era 1963 – shadowy or ghostly figure

Advertisements

Drown the Wind by Margaret Page Hood

from book jacket…
Andy Bruce was the most hated resident of craggy, windswept Fox Island off the coast of Maine. A tough, vigorous bantam of Yankee shrewdness, he had stepped on the toes of most of his neighbors as he clawed his way to control of the island’s property and wealth.

When Andy’s body was found one frosty dawn – his skull smashed in by a marlin spike – Gil Donan faced his most baffling case and an almost limitless array of prime suspects:
-Old Bill Pickford, who was about to be destroyed by Andy’s latest political coup.
-Bill’s wife, Emma, who had tried to temper Andy’s ambition and passions by throwing herself on his mercy.
-Letty Peaslee, a pale, delicate beauty whose destiny was under Andy Bruce’s sinister control.
-Letty’s finance, Jimmie, a handsome, rebellious young man who knew the secret of a sensational real-estate deal Andy was plotting to work out with a Hollywood movie star.

These and a host of other suspects – all of them stubborn, proud, and craftily evasive – force Sheriff Donan to draw upon all his ingenuity and skill to unravel his toughest case.

With keen understanding of Maine islanders and their ways and an infallible ear for their sprightly talk, Margaret Page Hood has created her finest story of murder and suspense. Drown the Wind is the most exciting Gil Donan mystery of all – a splendidly plotted book, rich in characterization, memorable in atmosphere and mood, and sparkling with salty wit.

By the end of the first chapter your rooting for someone, anyone, to murder hateful, egotistical Andy Bruce! Then the fun of finding out who finally had enough and did begins! Another great mystery by Margaret Page Hood! Sadly this is the last Gil Donan book. There’s one other mystery set on Fox Island, but it doesn’t feature Donan.

I loved all of her books, her sense of place and characterizations are spot on and I devour these little mysteries set in a place I adore. If you haven’t read them, try to get your hands on a copy and you’ll be hooked too!

Vintage scavenger hunt: just one person

The Bell on Lonely by Margaret Hood Page

The Bell on Lonely was an awesome sound to the natives of Fox Island, for its tolling had come to be a signal of trouble, violence or death. Over the years the tiny island – owned and inhabited by only one family – had been visited by a series of tragedies, until people on Fox whispered of a family curse and took care to steer clear of the waters around Lonely.

 And then, one gray afternoon, the copper bell rang out again and Deputy Sheriff Gil Donan set out to investigate.

 Gil found Dave Brackett, the owner of the island, dead beneath his own boat. it looked at first like another of the tragic accidents that had repeatedly struck the Brackett family. But there were curious circumstances that suggested to Gil not simply another bizarre mishap, but planned and premeditated murder.

Lonely, what a wonderful name for an island in a mystery! Atmosphere abounds in this tale…

‘The fog was cold as death breathing down his neck. He cast an uneasy eye toward Lonely Island drifting by in its slithering curtains. Damned unlucky place! He’d never set foot on it, even when he was a kid, although the terns nested on the southeastern tip and eggs were thicker than huckleberries for a boy’s stealing. Never took this passage home to Fox from the mainland even though it was a short cut which lessened the distance a couple of miles. He wasn’t the only man didn’t have a liking for Lonely. None of the lobstermen around Fox set their pots in the deep waters lying off its southwestern shores. No kids picnicked there, gathered the wild strawberries that reddened in the warm grass of its sloping meadows. No women went to pick apples although the orchard old Jed Brackett had planted still bore the best early cooking apples in Penobscot Bay. Especially no women visited Lonely.
  They claimed the sight of bloodstains frightened them. A red stain ran like a bleeding wound down the granite beyond the crescent of pebbled beach. couldn’t be bloodstains, their men told them. Not after all these years.’

Are you intrigued yet?

‘The shoes were old and scuffed, the soles heavy-corded, the laces frayed and knotted. The shoes of a man who’d walked a lonely way beside a woman he didn’t love. Nonsense, thought Gil, I’m assigning pathos to a pair of inanimate objects. I’m an incurable sentimentalist, standing at the moment in need of my good friend Doc’s astringent materialism.’

Sentimental is definitely one of the traits of Sheriff Donan! He is always loathed to have to find out who did it and arrest them. But justice must prevail!

 ‘I don’t say any of them did. I only say Dave’s the type of man whose actions may have brought about his own death.’ Sal responded.
  ‘In other words, Dave deserved to be killed?’
  ‘You persist in misunderstanding me. I don’t mean that at all. What I’m trying to say is you should be careful in fixing the blame for his death, since he himself may be the one at fault. It would be fairer to call it an accident, the accident of Dave’s own nature. As a representative of the law you’ll think this is silly and illogical. I’m sorry I started this conversation. Please forget it.’

Oh, Gil may have a really hard time with this one!

Great read!

Bev’s Vintage Scavenger Hunt Gold (1959) category shadowy figure

The Murders on Fox Island by Margaret Page Hood

1957

They called her a wanton, 
the people of Fox Island, but Jeanne Marie was only young and full of high spirits.

Her constant teasing flirtations, with any man and even with his own brother, are meaningless – or so Jeanne Marie’s husband told himself.

Until the night he found her lying on her bed in a flimsy nightgown. Dead. With his dead brother beside her.

And found himself the chief suspect for double murder.


In this book, Deputy Sheriff Gil Donan is finally beginning to be seen as a mature, confident law man…

‘Gil Donan, still the same gangling, long-legged awkward cuss he’d appointed as deputy for fox Island with much misgiving when Red Anderson left for the Wisconsin stone quarries. Two years Gil had served the island, and if his youthful frame hadn’t yet thickened to the set shape of maturity, he carried now an unconscious air of authority, a calm acceptance of his own ability to handle the intricacies of island problems.’

Doc, the local doctor, is becoming more and more a real help and confidante of Gil’s. I love them as a team. Doc knows the island people so well and he has a great sense of humor. While there is always some of the same residents in each book there is always someone new introduced too. I love the continuity and relationships in this series. So many good ‘suspects’ in this one!

 ‘As they passed Fox and ran along the back shore of Vinalhaven the waves were smashing against the rough granite boulders, sending the spray high in the air so that, catching the sun, it sparkled with a hundred tiny rainbows. Even the usually quiet waters of Indian Creek leading to the lobster pound were racing wildly along the sandy beaches.
 Cries hands were firm on the wheel, the cigarette sagged unlighted from his mouth. Crow Carver’s boat bucked the waves, slapped its bottom so violently in the trough that the pots and kettles in the galley rattled, and the floorboards of the wheelhouse creaked and groaned.
  The seals, sunning themselves on their rocky ledge, slid with loud splashing into the sea as the boat passed close. The air above the barren island where the sea gulls nested, its rocks whitened with droppings, was filled with the flurry of wings as gulls shelled and turned in the wind.’

Can’t you just imagine yourself there?

Gil went to ask Grandma about Uncle Judson’s youth and she served him something called parkin. 
“Here,” she said putting a plate and glass of before him, “fresh parkin I baked this morning. Got the recipe from an English woman used to live here when the quarries was working. Nothing like parkin and a glass of fresh milk to wash it down.”
  The parkin had a good chew to it, flavored with molasses and spice. Gil ate greedily. Wiping the milky mustache from his mouth he asked the old lady what she could tell him about the hermit of Huckleberry Hill.

I had to go on a search for parkin of course then. Found this recipe. Can’t wait to try it!

The original title of this book was In the Dark Night. Why do publishers feel like they have to change titles? If I was an author I wouldn’t like them messing with my work that way! I have a small old Dell paperback and they changed the name. I love the cover on this one and I so love the feel of these old small paperbacks in my hands as I read. Now to go right to the next in the series and decor them all at once or leave a couple for a treat later?

This book will count for the red head on the cover category in Bev’s Scavenger Hunt Gold 2016

Peggy Ann

The Scarlet Thread by Margaret Page Hood

1956

Fox Island, in Penobscot Bay, loses its first summer tenant when Mrs. Dyne is killed and Deputy Sheriff Donan must backtrack through the history of the house she has rented. Through the speculation of the townspeople, the tales of curses and ghosts, the feelings against off-islanders, Donan follows the trail of the scarlet thread, proves his case of murder and reluctantly catches his killer.

I can’t get enough of these Maine mysteries! Solid, well plotted, great characters and takes me away to Maine as I read. Gil Donan is a reluctant although thorough sheriff. Someone is always pointing out his youth…
“H’m,” Josh was plainly disgruntled, “can see you’re young in the business. Always look on the worst side of folks, Gil, then you’re not fooled when you catch ’em up to mischief. If they’re okay, man can always be agreeably surprised, and no harm done.”
And Gil really hates having to arrest them…
‘He was glad poetry-quoting little Sarah hadn’t bought any of that damned scarlet thread. He shouldn’t be in this business. Never wanted to find anyone capable of crime.’
But he doggedly goes about collecting clues and has a good sense of people and always sees what others miss.
This mystery centers around an old two story house that has a curse on it from two generations ago. Josiah Bickford became a Mormon late in his married life and took himself two more young wives. The first Mrs. Bickford didn’t much like that and put a curse on their family home. After several deaths in the house over the years people started to believe in the curse. Was the curse the cause of Mrs. Dyne’s death, was it just a sad accident or was there more to it? Great read!
This book counts for Vintage Scavenger Hunt 2016 Gold category Tombstone. Two small tombstones to the left of the house!
Peggy Ann

The Silent Women by Margaret Page Hood

1953
Her own father said:
“SHE HAD THE DEVIL IN HER!”

She was a beautiful woman no one could handle (he said) – a taunting siren who could steal another woman’s man with a flick of her lashes, and a devil who enjoyed doing it.

She was a temptress (he said) who drove men to violence and women to jealous frenzy. And he feared for her, warning that the passions she aroused in others might end in her own violent death.

Then she vanished (he said) – on an island too small to hide a living body, but big enough to camouflage a corpse.
(back cover)

“He’s crazy!” they said,

when the old man claimed his daughter was on the island. She had left years before and never returned. But he insisted she had come back.

“Impossible!” they said.

No one could have come without their knowledge. But he swore she’d been there – and then had vanished.

“Hallucinations!” they said.

His loneliness had driven him insane. But he charged that they were lying conspirators, that his beautiful daughter was real.

It was a case for the law. For – if she had come, and if she were real, and if she had vanished –
Maybe she was murdered!
(front page)

I really enjoyed this book! Well written, solid good characters, steady suspense and well balanced clues. Hood did a great job of keeping you off balance, was she on the island or wasn’t she?

Wonderful sense of atmosphere and lovely descriptions of the island and Maine life. Your really there. Delicious fog abounds and really sets the atmosphere for this chilling tale. Of course its one of my favorite places on earth so I might be prejudice!

Here are some excerpts from the book to give you a peek into her lovely writing…

‘The path followed the course of a brook through the woods. He could hear the cheerful gurgle of its falling waters as they hurried down to the sea. A good place for catching smelts. In season a likely spot for the silvery water. A thorny branch of blackberry slapped him in the face, a few wizened berries clung to the vine in defiance of autumn. In spite of their seediness their flavor was pleasant and spicy on his tongue. The golden brown of the ferns was beaded with fog, the slender fronds bent under the weight. A mountain ash defied the swirling gray veils to extinguish the brilliant red of its clustered fruits. There was a whirr as a woodcock rose almost under his feet. The brook and the path descended quickly to the meadow at the edge of the cove. Mingling with the fog he saw gray smoke rising from Giovanni’s chimney.’

‘He hurried up the brook path onto the narrow trail. The fog was thick as ever, but his feet automatically knew the way. His head was filled with thoughts of a girl in a red dress. A girl Miss Martha said was a figment of Giovanni’s longing. Was the old man batty? Or had Miss Martha lied? But why should a woman like Miss Martha lie? Perhaps the girl had come without being seen. Giovanni admitted she hadn’t come on a regular boat, had picked up a chance ride with a passing pleasure cruiser. Perhaps she’d gone back the same way. That was much more likely than that she’d been murdered. Wh’d kill a girl on this island? The mamma’s boy tending his sheep, or Miss Martha’s brother off at his lodge convention, or the sulky Oley fishing on the Banks?’

‘Fogs of Penobscot Bay have a dramatic quality. They advance suddenly from the sea shutting a thick white wall around the islands, blanketing the small lobster boats running for home. they slam the door of oblivion on all that stirs and breathes. As suddenly, when the wind changes, they retreat. Sometimes they pour along the surface of the water like milk, while the islands rise above them, floating dreamlike and unsubstantial. sometimes they soar upward to pass out to sea like scudding clouds, while the islands reappear as if born again into a world of sun-flecked waves and spear-pointed firs.”

“Once he’d set a rabbit trap on his grandfather’s farm. He’d gone out next morning whistling, his dog at his heels. A bold backwoodsman, a Daniel Boone. He’d found the rabbit in the trap, alive. It had looked at him with frightened eyes. He knew he had to kill it. It had screamed horribly as he brought the stick down across its neck. these people were in a trap, and he had to finish them off. Even if the memory of their cries haunted him like the scream of the rabbit.”

This book counts for Scavenger Hunt 2016 Gold category Dead Body.