Abigail Harker, a Boston lexicologist turned Outer Banks lighthouse keeper, returns in Ellen Block’s sequel to The Language of Sand. A year has passed since the tragic fire that took her young son and husband, and Abby is only slightly closer to healing than she was when she came south to North Carolina’s Chapel Isle. Renting the dilapidated, possibly ghost-infested lighthouse and attached cottage isn’t helping: the toilet is constantly breaking, the windows are swollen, and the heat in the summer is ghastly. Even worse, summer brings crowds of marauding tourists, and Abby has reluctantly agreed to perform small home repairs for the local rental agency, Gilquist Realty. Wasps nests, toilet clogs, and irritable summer people are not a recipe for inner peace.
Neither are home invasions. Abby is dismayed to find that she is of particular interest to a burglar, which she correctly guesses is due to recent hubbub over The Bishop’s Mistress, a ship carrying valuables that sank off the coast of Chapel Isle in the late 18th century. The journals of the lighthouse keeper from that century (which she happened to find in her basement) could provide valuable clues, and the burglar seems to know this. But who could it be? Sheriff Caleb Larner, whom Abby knows to have secretly been a thief? Her landlord, the ditzy and manipulative Lottie? Those arson-enthused teens who are adding even more mayhem to the already tense island? Abby must try to protect the journals, handle the touchy lighthouse, and fend off both wasps and amorous summer suitors. Luckily she has the perfect vocabulary to handle any situation.
Ellen Block has written a simultaneously sensitive and hilarious mystery that happily resists descending into melancholy. Abby Harker is a strong, intelligent personality, perfect as a companion for a day on the Outer Banks, or as the subject of discussion in your local book club.