"Hot Water" is the first in a series starring Peter Bartholomew, a "factotum" on an island off Cape Hook in New England. A factotum does "odd jobs" and Pete's business is booming. Here, he is hired to catalog books, but he doesn't get very far with his task after he finds the woman who hired him dead in the bathtub. It seemed like a straight-forward case of suicide. If only Pete could forget that when he found her, the water was hot...........
Title: Hot Water
Author: Sally Gunning
ISBN: 0671728040/Pocket Books
Protagonist: Peter Bartholomew
Setting: present-day, small town of Nashtoba on Cape Cod, Massachusetts
First Line: Peter Bartholomew was having a bad day.
In his teens, Pete Bartholomew took a black marker to a piece of poster board, writing, "FACTOTUM: A person employed to do all sorts of work". Now he's all grown up, still living in his small hometown on Cape Cod, and Factotum is a genuine business which takes care of just about everything that needs doing in Nashtoba. Hired to catalog books at Edna Hitchcock's place, the last thing he expected to do was find her body in the bathtub. It looked like a clear case of too much booze and pills until Pete remembered that the bathwater had still been hot. He immediately goes to the police with the information and learns some of his own: his much-to-be-avoided ex-wife is back in town. Hired by Edna's daughter to do some research into the family history, it's an easy decision for Pete to make to stay out of the ex-wife's line of fire and to try to find out what really happened to Edna.
I enjoyed Gunning's The Widow's War so much that I tracked down this first in the mystery series she's written. All the pieces of a good series are there, but they don't gel very well. I recognized the killer the first time the character made an appearance. Although the setting is perfect for a series and Gunning has assembled a good cast of regulars, I felt as though I were kept at a distance from them all, especially Pete. That can be extremely frustrating for a character-driven reader. I was less than impressed with this debut, but the bone structure is a good one, so I'll be trying the next in the series. I know that Gunning is a very good writer, so Pete deserves a second chance.
Great start to a new series