"The knitters will gather once again to investigate the death of an old curmudgeon."
Reviewed by Leanne Davis
Posted May 28, 2012
Finnegan was a fixture in the town of Sea Harbor. After the
death of his wife, he retreated to his property and let the
weeds grow rampant on his property. He had a strict code of
proper behavior and wasn't ashamed to let others know when
he thought they were wrong. The only family he allows on
his property is the Halloran family and Birdie's newly
Gabbyis a 10 year old who takes the town by storm. All the
other girls want to imitate her style. Birdie and her staff
are enchanted by her as is rest of the town, espcially
Finnegan. Cass is taking Finnegan some bread and stumbles
over his body. She is devastated by his death.
Nell and the rest of the Seaside Knitters will seek the
truth of who killed Finnegan when his will is read; Finnegan
has left everything he owns to Cass. The Hallorn lobster
business is about to go broke and the news of this
inheritance is causing the police to think that Cass might
have killed him for his money.
Knowing that Cass is incapable of murder, her friends rally
around to discover the real killer. When Finn's
stepdaughter is killed, it becomes obvious that this isn't
just about his money.
As always, Ms. Goldenbaum has written an intriguing mystery
with some wonderful characters. Filled with love of friends
and family and some thoughtful storytelling, this is a book
that will enchant the reader. Every time I read one of
these books, I want to find Sea Harbor and meet the cast of
As Izzy Perry and the Seaside Knitters prepare Izzy's yarn
studio for the tourist season, fellow knitter Birdie Favazza
has her hands full with Gabby, a granddaughter she never
knew existed. Gabby soon becomes a fixture in the
town--riding off on Birdie's bike, teaching her own crochet
class, even striking up an unlikely friendship with a
reclusive fisherman, Finnegan, who is the source of much
Then lobsterwoman Cass Halloran stumbles over the old
fisherman, his body covered with leaves and sea grass and
wearing the yellow fleece vest she once made for him. When
Cass becomes a suspect in his murder, the knitters rally to
protect their dear friend.
Soon the Seaside Knitters will discover that caring for
Gabby while casting their net for a killer is a tricky
business, indeed. They'll have to keep their wits about
them as they piece together the clues in an effort to catch
the killer before one of their own winds up knitting behind
In Birdie Favazza's mind, city council meetings were
about as bland as white bread. But tonight's meeting, from
which she was mysteriously absent, would surely make her
eat her words.
"He's gone loony tunes, that's what. The old codger has
a screw loose." D.J. Delaney's booming voice echoed off the
walls of the City Hall meeting room.
Finnegan's land was the last item on tonight's short
docket, and most people had stayed to hear what the council
would decide to do about it. Or perhaps that's why they'd
come in the first place.
"It's such a small stretch of land," Nell Endicott had
said to her husband as they drove the short distance from
their house to City Hall.
"But positioned perfectly between Canary Cove Road and
the sea," Ben replied. "A diamond in the rough. Everyone
wants a piece of it."
The energetic crowd of Sea Harbor residents had
concurred as they sat shoulder to shoulder in the heated
room, many with their own imagined plans for how it would
be used—once they wrested it away from the crazy old
man who lived there, that is.
A developer's dream.
Revenue for the town.
A fancy strip of shops? A small inn, perhaps?
Expensive summer condos.
Or a park with play equipment, a wading pool, a skating
rink in winter.
"I've offered the guy everything but my firstborn," D.J.
continued, his eyes blazing. The developer sat near the
front of the crowd, his wife, Maeve, at his side. "He won't
listen to reason. People would kill for that land."
"Well, let's hope not," Ben Endicott said. His voice was
a fan, cooling the room's heated air. The voice of reason
in the tempest the land debate had churned up.
"I say we concentrate on the new community garden," Ben
continued. "Get everyone involved. Make it spectacular. It
will butt right up to Finnegan's place, and once he sees
those juicy Big Boys bending the vines, he'll come around
and clean up his place—I'll bet on it. After all,
that's what we all really want. Right?"
Nell held back a smile. No, that wasn't what they really
wanted, and Ben knew it as well as anyone. No one would
object to the unsightly acres being cleaned up, true. But
what many really wanted was what they saw when they looked
at the land: dollar signs. Lots of them.
"Maybe Finnegan would help with the garden," Willow
Adams said hopefully. The young fiber artist liked the old
man, and the complaints against him offended her. But the
land was an eyesore, even Willow had to admit.
Next to her, Beverly Walden was still. Although the
artist kept her opinions to herself, her face was as
graphic as her contemporary paintings: bright, bold, and
expressive. And from what Nell Endicott could tell from
across the room, her expression confirmed the rumors that
rumbled up and down the winding, narrow streets of Canary
Cove: Beverly Walden didn't like Finnegan. And from all
reports, the feeling was mutual.
A possible Greek tragedy in the making, because Beverly
Walden was Finnegan and his late wife Moira's only child.
"I know the land's a problem," police chief Jerry
Thompson said from his chair near the front of the room.
His calm voice brought everyone to attention. "It's not
looking so great, sure, but Finn will come around."
"That land used to be so fine, just like the other
places down there—neat little offices with flower
boxes in front," Archie Brandley, the Sea Harbor Bookstore
owner, said, rising from his chair. His head nodded with
each word, and he looked down at his wife,
Harriet. "Remember? Finn had that little bait shop, and
Moira handed out hot dogs to fishermen, right along with
the worms. She never took a dime for the dogs, only the
Murmurs of agreement mixed with some chuckles rippled
through the crowd from those who remembered the days when
life moved a little slower—and later ones, too, when
it was cheaper to buy bait from the bigger places in town
and Finnegan finally closed the shop to fish
full–time. But Moira declared that very spot her
favorite place on God's earth. So Finnegan renovated the
building on the land. He fixed up the first floor with a
couple of offices for rent, and moved his Moira from a
small cottage above the Canary Cove Art Colony to the
spacious top floor with the million–dollar view.
Nothing but miles of blue and squabbles of gulls overhead.
Fishing boats moving back and forth. And around the
building, lots of green space and rosebushes, which Moira
"It was after his Moira died that things got bad," Harry
Garozzo, owner of the deli on Harbor Road, said. "Damn
cancer took her and might as well have taken Finn, too, for
a while anyway."
Nell remembered hearing the stories. Moira's death was
the beginning. And soon the land became a jungle of sea
grass and broken bottles—a place for kids to hide a
six–pack late at night or drifters to seek shelter,
until driven away by Finnegan's BB gun. Eventually ocean
winds ripped the paint from the cottage by the sea, and it
decayed into a shack where drifters sometimes slept when
the ocean's freezing gusts drove them inside and the owner
And old man Finnegan refused to clean it up.
He also refused to give it up, though the offers to buy
the land would make him a rich man.
Instead, he put up a wire fence that held in the weeds,
trash trees, and tall wavy grasses. At the gate he
fastened a NO TRESPASSING sign. Outside the fence,
passersby—joggers and strollers, vacationers headed
toward the Canary Cove art galleries—caught glimpses
of Finnegan fiddling with rusted boat parts and lobster
pots and bales of old fishing rope. Sometimes he'd be
whistling, sometimes muttering to himself.
But no one ever saw him mowing the waist–high
grass that offered him the privacy he coveted.
Sometimes at night, folks dining at the Ocean's Edge
harbor restaurant would look out over the water and see him
silhouetted against the lights, a bent black shape sitting
on the end of his weather–beaten dock, scanning the
sky with an old pair of binoculars, searching the sky for
Or maybe for his Moira.
"Finnegan can be downright nasty," Beatrice Scaglia
said, not buying the love story that may have informed his
land. She sat at the curved table in the front of the room,
her red fingernails tapping on the wooden surface near the
microphone. The councilwoman was impeccably dressed in a
white linen suit, though the other council members sported
knit shirts and khakis or cotton skirts and blouses. "We've
had dozens of complaints and so have the police. And when
Sergeant Tommy Porter, dressed in full uniform, stopped by
to discuss them politely with him, he practically forced
Tommy off his land." Her hand flapped through the air in
the direction of the young policeman.
"I wonda what he's hiding out there?" This came from the
owner of a pizzeria on the edge of town, who'd been trying
to get a place near the water for years. "Maybe he's, well,
you know, growing somethin'. Maybe those weeds are hiding
more than old lobsta traps. . . ." His words hung
suggestively over the crowd.
What nonsense, Nell thought. She removed a nearly
finished lace scarf from the bag at her feet. Knitting
brought a calmness to her spirit, and all this negative
talk about a decent man who liked his privacy was beginning
to rile her up.
Beatrice Scaglia pulled the microphone closer but
waited for a few minutes, allowing the pizzeria owner's
words to settle on anyone who might need further convincing
that someone, somehow, needed to persuade Finnegan to
vacate his land and allow it to be used sensibly. Finally
she said, "I think we may need to impose serious fines on
Finnegan, ones that will convince him to sell the property
and move on with his life."
From the front row an old man pushed himself up to a
standing position, his white beard creating the illusion of
Santa Claus himself. He leaned on a carved walking stick to
keep his balance. Angus McPherran rarely showed up at
public functions, and his presence caused a hush to fall
over the room.
"Finn's mad because the police took away his driver's
license," Angus said. "Had to be done, but it made him
wicked mad. So he doesn't want any patrolman knocking on
his door. He wonders what you're gonna take away next.
"And then there's the rest of you, pushing your way onto
his property, trying to buy it out from under him to make
yourselves rich. Shame on you." He threw a pointed look at
D.J. Delaney, the developer, then went on. "So he doesn't
want to pretty up the place. So what? That's his
God–given right. It's his land, for chrissake."
Those gathered in the council meeting room nodded at the
mention of Finnegan's driver's license. Everyone had heard
about the day Police Chief Jerry Thompson said, "That's it,
Finn," and took his license away forever. The bent lamppost
in front of Harry Garozzo's deli was just a small reminder
of Finnegan's slow responses and careless driving, not to
mention the fear that rippled up and down Harbor Road when
he'd come around the corner in his beat–up Chevy
pickup. The chief had bought him a ten–speed bicycle
with his own money to soften the blow, but Finn would often
sit up in the cab of his truck, now a fixture on the
weed–encrusted land, as if it somehow gave him back
"Just leave the old coot be," Angus said. He gave
another withering look at D.J., then lowered his body back
down onto the chair.
Subdued chuckles passed through the crowd when Angus
called Finnegan old. Angus himself—The Old Man of the
Sea, as the kids called him—was old enough that no
one even tried to remember the exact year he was born.
Angus had been around forever, was the way people looked at
it. And his generosity to the city made people not ask his
age but defer to him instead.
"No disrespect to you, Angus," Beatrice Scaglia
said, "but the place has become an eyesore, plain and
simple—and that is our business." One long red
fingernail tapped on the table.
"I suppose it's not the best thing for Colony Cove," Ham
Brewster admitted. Ham spoke with reluctance. He liked Finn
well enough, just like most of the Canary Cove artists did.
Finnegan was their self–appointed watchdog and street
cleaner, fixing shutters and cleaning up the paper cups and
lobster roll wrappings that tourists sometimes tossed in
the narrow streets of the art colony. Finnegan's wife,
Moira, had been an artist, he often told them—and
it's what she'd have wanted him to do.
Nell watched Jane Brewster, a dear friend, cast her eyes
to the floor. Jane agreed with what her husband said, but
she didn't like herself for it. She and Ham headed the
Canary Cove Arts Association—housed in a very neat
building on the other side of Finn's land—and had
worked hard to make the colony successful, safe, and
beautiful. Finnegan's land was becoming a deterrent to
business and an eyesore to all of them.
"And it's a hotbed for riffraff," Jake Risso, owner of
the Gull Tavern, spoke up. Again, with some
reluctance. "Not Finn's fault, but when I'm out in the boat
I can see 'em, bums trying to hunker down over there. They
think it's abandoned—"
"And, therefore, theirs," Beatrice said. "And it's not
good for Finn himself. Just two weeks ago someone showed up
in that rotted building and Finn caused an awful ruckus."
The crowd turned to look at Tommy Porter, the young
policeman who had stopped the fight. If he hadn't, he'd
told the reporter who dutifully wrote it up for the
newspaper, the guy might not have seen the light of a new
day. Finn was fuming mad, and the bum had a broken nose to
show for it.
Tommy nodded at the attention, but declined from adding
to the discussion.
Nell settled back in the chair, lulled by the buzz of
conversation around her. She didn't often come to council
meetings, agreeing with Birdie's evaluation, but Ben was
chairing the new Parks and Open Spaces Committee, and his
community garden idea was a brilliant one. She had come to
support his plans, hoping it would overshadow the debate
over Finnegan's run–down property.
But it hadn't, and now the comments in the room were
less about assigning garden plots, building pathways, and
bringing in mulch, and far more about ousting an old man
from his rightful property.
Nell often jogged along the path that bordered the land
in question. She understood clearly why people were upset.
The whole area was seedy and unkempt. Beatrice Scaglia had
hired teenagers to go in and mow down the grass—a
favor, Nell supposed, to townspeople who took their
complaints to the councilwoman. Beatrice knew well that
favors encouraged people to vote her way when election time
But then, awhile back, the fence went up and Beatrice's
Directly across the room from Nell, Cass Halloran stood,
with her back against the wall, next to Danny Brandley. She
looked distant, as if she were there in body but not much
else. Every now and then Danny would glance down at her as
if her mood was passing from her body into his own. His
expression carried worry. Worry for Cass, Nell suspected.
The mystery writer's affection for Nell's favorite
lobsterwoman had ripened right along with his own
successful career, and what Cass worried about, he probably
The burden of keeping the Hallorans' lobster business
alive and thriving was a heavy one. Not an easy task in
Izzy Perry, owner of the Seaside Knitting Studio, wasn't
at the meeting because her shop was still open and busy
with vacationers getting started on knitting projects, but
she'd promised to meet Nell and Cass and other friends for
dinner. She sent her husband, Sam, to the meeting in her
stead. Sam, as was his way, stood in the back, a camera
hanging from a strap around his neck, just in case. Tonight
Sam's camera went unattended as he listened intently to the
Birdie was absent, too, though she said she was coming.
But when Nell had called earlier to offer her a ride, Ella,
the housekeeper, said Birdie had received a phone call that
sent her upstairs to shower, and then she was gone. Off
without a word of explanation.
And Miss Birdie rarely showered in the middle of the
day, Ella had added.
Nell smiled as she recalled the tone in Ella's voice.
Crisp and disapproving. Ella usually knew exactly where
Birdie was, and that's the way she—and her husband
and groundskeeper, Harold—liked it.
But Birdie and Izzy were among the minority missing the
meeting. Many of the Canary Cove artists were there, and
one whole row was filled with longtime residents who lived
in the neighborhood above Canary Cove—the old
captains' homes that had been redone and refurbished into
coveted family homes—and a newer neighborhood just
across the cove.
At the end of the row was Sal Scaglia, who with his wife
had recently renovated one of those homes and turned it
into a Sea Harbor showplace. He sat with a notebook on his
lap, his dark–rimmed glasses in place , and his
attention focused on his wife, Beatrice. He reminded Nell
of a faithful pup, although she knew Sal wouldn't find that
flattering. But he was exactly that: always there at the
meetings, always at Beatrice's side during her campaigns
and civic commitments. Appearing at cocktail parties and
ribbon cuttings and store openings—the quiet, loyal
man behind the successful and ambitious woman.
Beatrice was still tapping her fingernail, waiting for
some overt agreement that the group as a whole needed to
take immediate action. Silence stretched across the room
like a taut rubber band ready to snap.
Finally, the awkward moment was broken by sounds coming
from the back of the room.
Nell welcomed the distraction. She looked toward the
Beatrice Scaglia peered over her microphone, straining
to see into the shadows at the back of the room. Finally,
Bodies shifted on the benches and chairs, eyes moving
toward the commotion.
Davey Delaney, the construction company owner's son, was
standing just behind the last row of chairs. He was alone,
as he usually was, leaving his wife, Kristen, home with
their three children. Davey was the image of his father as
a younger man—ruggedly built with a
barroom–handsome face, muscular body with just the
faintest beginning of a beer bulge. His thinning auburn
hair had been bleached by the sun and was more red than
brown. His piercing blue eyes were staring, but not at the
council table in the front of the room. Instead, he had
turned his broad shoulders sideways, his stance that of a
tiger ready to pounce. He was staring into the shadows near
the back door.
Nell followed his look.
A dozen feet away, just inside the wide council room
doors, stood a slender man with a prominent nose and
shadowed jaw. He stood apart from the others crowding the
room. A Sox cap was pulled low on his forehead, partially
covering a white bandage across his cheek, and an old denim
shirt hung loose from his bony shoulders.
The man knew it and met it head–on. He scratched
an unshaven chin, his expression unreadable.
Except for the microphone picking up the tapping of
Beatrice Scaglia's fingernails, the room was quiet.
"I never liked you much, Delaney," the man finally said,
breaking the silence. His robust voice was a contrast to
the deep furrows of age that defined his face. "But I give
you your space, now. Don't I do that? Your old man, too.
Sure, I do. I always done that, even when you were a young
upstart raidin' our traps out near the island, tangling
lines, creating trouble. So now it's time you give me my
space, Davey Delaney. You know what I'm saying here?"
The older man pushed his body away from the wall,
standing tall now, his fingers curling into a fist at his
Although the man weighed half that of the hefty Delaney
son and would likely have done little harm, Ben spotted the
clenched fist and began moving toward the back of the room.
Across the room, Ben's friend Ham Brewster did the same.
But when the man's arm rose, his fingers relaxed and
went to his own head, not to Davey Delaney's. Slowly, he
clasped the bill of his cap with gnarled fingers and
removed it, inclining his head slightly to the dozens of
people looking at him. He scanned the crowd, surprised at
the attention coming his way.
"I just stopped by to be sure no one was robbing the
place, maybe to see what all the hullabaloo was about.
That's all," he said. He managed a lopsided smile. "Damned
if it wasn't about me."
Davey Delaney ignored the man's words and his smile and
took a step closer, his eyes flashing and a
fire–engine blush crawling up his thick neck. His
legs apart, his hands clenched, he leaned forward. "You
hear this, old man. Mark my words. That land'll be ours
someday and we'll treat it a damn sight better than you do.
We've got some respect for the people living around it."
Davey tried to keep his voice low, but it refused to
whisper and the words passed across the hushed room.
The old man turned toward him again, his smile
disappearing in a flash. One bent finger pointed at the
"My land?" he said. The words hung in the air, held up
by incredulity. His finger shook and his voice rose,
bringing the room to rapt attention.
"You . . . Get . . . My . . . Land?" He paused for just
one moment, then held Davey Delaney immobile in his stare.
His words shot out like bullets. "Over my dead body, you
The age–spotted hand dropped to his side, and
after another slight nod to the crowd, Finnegan the
fisherman put his cap back on his balding head, turned
slowly, and with an arthritic limp, walked out of the Sea
Harbor City Hall and into the approaching night.
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