The latest in the Joe Silva series, set in the small coastal town of Mellingham, opens at a funeral for a young man who has died of a drug overdose. Before long, one of his friends is having a funeral of his own, after toppling out of his bedroom window, a careless thing to do when, by all accounts, he had cleaned up and was putting his life together. Though there are no obvious signs of foul play, something about the accident doesn't add up, and Joe Silva can't leave it alone.
Mellingham is located at the intersection of the cozy village mystery and the more hard-boiled tradition, reminiscent of Julia Spencer-Fleming's Miller's Kill without the adventurous pacing, or of Archer Mayor's Vermont without the finely orchestrated ensemble procedural work. There is a large cast of characters in this low-key mystery, from Ann Rose, a community volunteer who seems mystified by the neediness of the children whose lives she touches, to the homeless friend of the dead addict. Then there's a gang of aimless teens who are headed for trouble, and seem to be taking the son of Joe's friend Gwen with them.
Though the plot is satisfyingly twisty, the story suffers from its multitude of viewpoints. We are privy to many town residents' feelings and thoughts, but they don't cohere as complete characters and the narrative switchbacks slow the pacing. Still, readers who have enjoyed the Mellingham series in the past will want to try out this relatively dark-hued installment.