During one of my many, many, many unnecessary trips to Borders, I came across “New England White.” I think the shiny book cover attracted my attention before the subject matter – a murder mystery in the town of Elm Harbor. Hmmm!!! I hadn’t read a mystery novel in years, and thought “why not?”
Lemaster Carlyle, the African-American president of a top divinity school, and his wife Julia are on their way home from a dinner party. Driving in a blizzard, the couple skids off the road where they discover a dead body. Both of them realize they know this person --- Kellen Zant, a colleague who also works at the university. Zant also happened to be a former paramour of Julia’s. All of this juicy information in the first few chapters grabbed my attention. But somewhere along the way Carter lost me.
Clues to the murder are given out ever so slowly. Even the Carlyle’s troubled daughter, Vanessa, gets drawn into the plot. Zant was investigating a murder from years ago. Zant realized his demise was in the making and left clues for Julia to find. The clues were more like puzzle pieces to me, 1000 puzzle pieces that added up to nothing. I say that because it takes 617 pages to solve the mystery. I have nothing against long books, I actually like them as long as they’re engaging. Carter just takes too long to unravel the mystery. The first 100 pages and the final 100 pages did grab me, but many times along the way I thought about giving up. It took me six months to finish this one!! And that has more to do with the writer than my reading habits because I managed to finish four additional books in that time span. But once I start a book I have to finish. Carter’s writing style seems more intellectual, rather than a straight forward mystery novel. I think that has to do with Carter being a lawyer by trade.
While I didn’t particularly care for “New England White,” I’m not giving up on Carter. His first novel, “The Emperor of Ocean Park” is on my list. Why???? The Emperor of Ocean Park is just as long, but I’m hoping it’s better than my first go round with Carter.