Friday, February 10, 2017

Spice Island Mystery: Review

Spice Island Mystery (1969) by Betty Cavanna takes place on the island of Grenada, known as "Spice Island" because of the numerous nutmeg plantations and scent of nutmeg which permeates the air. Marcy Baptiste, seventeen and a native of Grenada, has just returned home after living in the United States and attending high school there while serving as a companion for the daughter of one of the plantation families and caretaker for Claire's younger brothers. 

Marcy, who has a longing to attend college as her friend Claire will be doing in the fall, sets about finding herself a job while she figures out her future. She is hired by Harlan W. Fletcher of the Fletcher Development Corporation to be secretary, payroll clerk, and general gofer. On her first day at work, she meets Richard Strang, a handsome young architect who also works for the the Corporation. While Marcy tries to navigate her new feelings for Richard, she also is working through old relationships. Some of her former friends wonder if she's become too Americanized, but Coffee Parkinson, a young man she knew well before leaving for the States, seems determined to renew their friendship and possibly make it a little more.

But as Marcy settles in to work and her new lodgings, she notices some things that don't quite add up. Coffee seems to have more money to spend than he could possibly make as a construction worker. The same holds true for several young men she knows. Coffee presents her with an expensive bottle of perfume as a welcome home gift. Another young man buys his father a new motorcycle. There are gold watches and motorbikes among the others. Marcy sees Coffee set out at odd hours to visit a luxury boat in the harbor and later he calls in sick to work only to be spotted with a wealthy tourist by Marcy while she's at lunch. Marcy and Richard, who have begun to see one another away from the job, have several encounters with ruffians and bundles of dried someone smuggling nutmeg for a higher profit? Or are the stakes higher than that? Marcy's mother always told her that her curiosity would get her in trouble one day. She will have to be very careful in her amateur investigations not to make her mother's prophecy come true. 

Betty Cavanna provides an interesting teenage mystery with just enough romance to add a bit of spice, but not to overwhelm the amateur sleuthing. Marcy is a well-drawn, strong young character and the supporting cast are quite interesting as well. The main mystery (what kind of smuggling is going on) isn't to hard to figure out, but Cavanna does manage to keep the reader guessing on who is really involved and who isn't. A good solid read for young people (and us older folks as well). ★★

This counts for the "Boat" category on the Silver Vintage Scavenger Hunt card. I will also note that this book (like my last read) seems to have a bit of a discrepancy in the publishing date. My copy says it is a second printing in 1970 with an original date of 1969. There are several sites that are placing the original pub date as 1970. But...I am going with my copy and counting it for 1969 and an entry in the Birth Year Challenge.

1 comment:

J.G. said...

This sounds really interesting! I enjoy the window into other times and places that books provide, especially somewhere like Grenada (where watches and motorbikes are signs of ill-gotten gains).