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Of Cynthia's Books

Praise for Bloodroot

  • In Riggs's agreeable 12th Martha's Vineyard mystery someone uses arsenic—easily available on the island—to poison the wealthy and unpleasant Mildred Wilmington while she's at the dentist. The dental clinic is a hotbed of lust, jealousy, and greed, but also under suspicion are the four grandchildren she helped raise and who are expected to do very well financially now that the old lady is gone. Since the police are busy preparing for a visit by the U.S. president, it’s up to 92-year-old deputy Victoria Trumbull to investigate. Fortunately, most people are willing to confide in Victoria, which helps her sort through the mess. Meanwhile, Lockwood, the duplicitous and dangerous former husband of Victoria's granddaughter Elizabeth, shows up on the Vineyard. Despite scads of evidence that Lockwood is no good, Victoria welcomes him. Maybe it's because she needs his help to unmask the killer.— Publishers Weekly

  • Think you don't enjoy your dental visits? Imagine how you'd feel if you didn't survive them! Victoria Trumbull, who's lived on Martha's Vineyard for her entire 92 years, knows all the permanent residents. She has a formidable reputation as a sleuth and even serves as a deputy. So when a murder occurs the week before a visit from the president, she's the logical person to investigate. Dr. Horace Mann, who owns the dental clinic, hates treating the demanding Mildred Wilmington. So do the clinic's other three dentists and their techs. . . . With so many suspects, it's bound to be hard to find the culprit. Riggs, who describes the beauties of her acerbic sleuth's island home as lovingly as ever, provides a more satisfying conclusion than usual this time around.— Kirkus Reviews

  • A mysterious drowning in Oak Bluffs harbor and the poisoning of an Island matriarch in a dentist’s chair set the stage for Cynthia Riggs’s 13th novel, Bloodroot . . . The Vineyard itself is an ever-present character in the novel. Even passing moments remind us of where we are: “Rain beat against the window. Wind rattled the ancient panes. The lilac scratched the shingles.

    Driven mostly by dialogue, the story moves at a steady clip, with plot twists as quirky and unpredictable as the Island characters themselves. Along the way, readers get an inside glimpse of Island life — the bars, workplaces, waterfront properties and, most of all, the natural beauty that many of the characters, even those with bloody intentions, can appreciate.—Alex Ervin, Vineyard Gazette. READ THE FULL REVIEW


  • The author’s artistry is in the unfolding of plot and subplots that wind back on themselves like the bittersweet vine that abounds here. Ms. Riggs throws in subtext that resonates of Island life. For example, the U.S. president is coming for an annual vacation, and local police are run ragged with preparations. Also, Mrs. Trumbull’s granddaughter, Elizabeth, is watching her own back for the reappearance of her psychotic and obsessive ex, restraining order notwithstanding.

    . . . Ms. Riggs tells her tales with nuance and detail that allow Island visitors to see how we act and feel. For residents, descriptions of scenes in these stories articulate the things we see on a daily basis and refreshes them for us. She draws delicious characters from Island residents we all know, either as real people or as types. There is an impish side to Ms. Riggs’ writing that can provide a thoughtful nod or a belly laugh. . . . Ms. Riggs has promised us 20 books, and Victoria is certainly spry enough for the work.—Jack Shea, Martha’s Vineyard Times. READ THE FULL REVIEW


  • When crotchety senior citizen Mildred Wilmington dies after collapsing in her dentist’s chair, few grieve. Not her four unpleasant grandchildren, together at Mildred’s home on Martha’s Vineyard for the first time in a decade. Not the staff of the dental clinic, who resent Mildred’s disdainful treatment of them. . . . All the suspects have motives — revenge and inheritance stand out — for Mildred’s death from arsenic poisoning. Riggs, a 13th-generation Islander in her mid-80s, is adept at fashioning an intriguing puzzle rendered in no-nonsense New England prose with particular respect for the abilities of the elderly. And she spins another good yarn.— Jay Strafford, Richmond Times-Dispatch

  • Mrs. Wilmington left a $3 million estate and four greedy heirs — her grandchildren, all of whom hated her. Any one or all of them could have planned the murder. But Victoria finds there is way more to the story than meets the eye, and it is up to her to find the killer. This cozy little mystery is filled with beautiful descriptions of the island as well as interesting characters.—The Oklahoman

Praise for From Off Island, by Dionis Coffin Riggs

  • This new edition of Dionis Riggs' From Off Island could not be more welcome.—David McCullough, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Truman and John Adams (1992)

  • From Off Island, by Dionis Coffin Riggs, offers a splendid historical account of the author's Australian grandmother at the height of America's whaling era—the Vineyard's golden years.—Richard Reston, former editor-publisher of the Vineyard Gazette (1992)

  • We are delighted with From Off Island—as everyone who loves Martha's Vineyard is bound to be. I think it is a grand book, and its appeal should be wide.—Henry Beetle Hough, Pulitzer Prize–winning author, former editor-publisher of the Vineyard Gazette (1940)

  • . . . a careful and affectionate reconstruction of the life of the author's grandmother . . . and engaging characters set off by a background picturesque in time and place . . .—Saturday Review of Literature (1940)

  • . . . full of good old-fashioned trouble solved in good old-fashioned ways . . .—Chicago Daily News (1940)

Praise for Murder on C-Dock

  • Murder on C-Dock . . . is a chillingly fun read that introduces us to Persie Lee Butler, a 40-something Smithsonian researcher who lives aboard a houseboat in a tidal basin yacht club hard by the Capitol area in Washington, D.C. . . . As the murders and boat-burnings pile up, we see layers of personalities emerge and the secrets of live-aboards laid bare. Ms. Riggs-Attebery’s characters wrestle with grown-up stuff involving not only murder, but also incest, gay and lesbian partners dealing with homophobia, the corrosive effect of buried secrets, and revenge-seeking.

    Ms. Riggs-Attebery’s characters are crisp and distinct and funky. They serve as an unexpected social counterpoint to our image of a gray D.C. corporate and government bureaucracy.—Jack Shea in the Martha's Vineyard Times READ THE FULL REVIEW

Praise for Poison Ivy

  • In Ms. Riggs’ latest, Poison Ivy, we find Ms. Trumbull — part poet, part deputy sheriff — variously setting off in a sailboat in a violent storm, waiting it out on a stakeout, and even creeping through a field in the pitch dark to aid in the ultimate apprehension of the killer. . . . The twists and turns of the various plots hold the reader’s interest straight through to the apprehension of the murderer. But it’s really the details of Island life and the assemblage of interesting characters that make Ms. Riggs’ book a standout among other works of detective fiction. — Gwyn McAllister in the Martha's Vineyard Times READ THE FULL REVIEW

Praise for Victoria Trumbull's Martha's Vineyard

  • "Mystery writer Cynthia Riggs' new guide book is a real insider's guide to the Island." — Mathea Morais on Martha's Vineyard Patch ...READ THE FULL REVIEW
     
  • "Lynn Christoffers' photos and Stephen Wesley's maps make this a true travel guide, while Riggs' text and poetry choices add a literary air." — Melanie Lauwers, CapeCodOnline.com ...READ THE FULL REVIEW
     
  • "Using Victoria Trumbull, the protagonist of her mystery book series set on the Vineyard, as the lynchpin, Cynthia Riggs has created a where-to and how-to Island tour book embellished with wonderful tidbits of Vineyard facts and history, the poetry of her late mother, noted poet Dionis Coffin Riggs (on whom the sleuth Trumbull is based), and excerpts from her mysteries." — CK Wolfson in MVTimes.com... READ THE FULL REVIEW
     
  • "There's no better Vineyard guide than Cynthia Riggs and her character, Victoria Trumbull." — Linda Fairstein ...READ THE FULL REVIEW
     
  • "Cynthia Riggs has done it again!" — Nancy Slonim Aronie ...READ THE FULL REVIEW
     

Praise for The Bee Balm Murders

  • "Oh-oh. A pony tail? In the movies, that invariably signals a bad guy. Will Orion be an exception? And what about his permanently pleasant expression - could that mask something deeper and darker? " — By Holly Nadler in The Vineyard Gazette ...READ THE FULL REVIEW
     
  • "Killers should steer clear of Martha's Vineyard because senior sleuth Victoria Trumbull always finds out who did the crime." — Valerie A. Russo in Patriot Ledger ...READ THE FULL REVIEW
     
  • "The Bee Balm Murders is another delightful entry in Cynthia Riggs's Martha's Vineyard series." — Linda Fairstein ...READ THE FULL REVIEW
     

Praise for Touch-Me-Not

  • "The novel combines inverted detection and whodunit, with involving characters and a well-realized Martha's Vineyard background. " — Jon L. Breen in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine ...READ THE FULL REVIEW
     
  • "One should know by now never to underestimate Ms. Riggs. Educated as a geologist, she taught at the Annapolis Sailing School, lived on a 44-foot houseboat for 12 years while running the Chesapeake Bay Ferry Boat Company, was a rigger at Martha's Vineyard Shipyard, and in her late 60s, she earned an MFA in creative writing from Vermont College, and has, in each ensuing year, produced one of the Vineyard-based, Victoria Trumbull mysteries. Well done." — The Martha's Vineyard Times ...READ THE FULL REVIEW
     
  • "Filled with charming descriptions of life on Martha's Vineyard - particularly its natural beauty - and graced with the presence of an admirable and amiable heroine, Riggs' series continues to delight." — Richmond Times Dispatch ...READ THE FULL REVIEW
     
  • "Riggs's delightful ninth Martha's Vineyard mystery... a cozy that celebrates the springtime beauty of the island as well as its quirky, endearing residents..." — Publishers Weekly ...READ THE FULL REVIEW
     

Praise for Death and Honesty

  • "Death and Honesty is a witty amalgam of characters inhabiting a plot designed for the slightly unhinged reader who loves wit, lots of plot twists and a little heady confusion..." — The Barnstable Patriot ...READ THE FULL REVIEW
     
  • "Join Victoria in a cozy mystery that is well plotted, filled with humor and substance that will take you to the beach. A well-written cozy is a welcome break for the deluge of heavy chiller-thrillers..." — Nash Black in Bird's Eye View Book Reviews ...READ THE FULL REVIEW
     
  • "Islanders with oddities and old fashioned ways such as making jellied candies from island berries, raising chickens and goats, and quarrelling with neighbors over an out of control rooster that crows morning, noon and night..." — The Quill ...READ THE FULL REVIEW
     
  • "The first body that turns up is one of three town assessors involved in overcharging rich property owners to feather their own retirement nests." — Hartford Courant ...READ THE FULL REVIEW
     
  • "There's a body in the pantry, a body in the pond and a body in the attic. And here to investigate is Victoria Trumbull, the intrepid 92-year-old heroine of Cynthia Riggs' series set on Martha's Vineyard." — Richmond Times-Dispatch ...READ THE FULL REVIEW
     
  • "A great beach read on a Vineyard vacation is Death and Honesty, a Martha’s Vineyard murder mystery involving a trio of crooked assessors and their accomplices ..." — The Patriot Ledger ...READ THE FULL REVIEW
     
  • "Victoria Trumbull, indomitable 92-year-old deputy police officer and poet, investigates smalltown skulduggery in Riggs’s engaging eighth Martha’s Vineyard mystery." — Publishers Weekly ...READ THE FULL REVIEW
     
  • "This time the hanky-panky begins in the town hall, with three crooked assessors, whose names Ms. Riggs says are based on the harpies in Greek myth, and their weaseling clerk, who is also the tax collector. Add a wealthy former porn queen married to a nasty TV evangelist, a mysterious chauffeur, and, of course, a few murders, and you're off down a twisting up-Island labyrinth full of puzzles, dead ends, and humorous surprises." — The Martha's Vineyard Times ...READ THE FULL REVIEW
     

Praise for Shooting Star

  • "Riggs's pleasing seventh Martha's Vineyard mystery finds her 92-year-old heroine, Victoria Trumbull, a poet and deputy police officer, becoming a playwright for a summertime stage adaptation of Frankenstein." — Publishers Weekly ...READ THE FULL REVIEW
     
  • "Everyone is depicted in colorful broad strokes—drunken director, amiable local police, bright-eyed teens—and Victoria manages to feed and house most of them as well as solve mayhem and heartbreak." — Booklist ...READ THE FULL REVIEW
     
  • "The seventh Martha's Vineyard mystery thriller is a fun lighthearted tale that fans of the series will fully enjoy." — Harriet Klausner ...READ THE FULL REVIEW
     

Praise for Indian Pipes

  • "There are many levels on which to enjoy Cynthia Riggs's latest mystery... But it is the prose that makes the book sing." — The Martha's Vineyard Times ...READ THE FULL REVIEW
     
  • "People are so nice in West Tisbury that even the villains seem less than evil — more like seriously naughty." — The New York Times ...READ THE FULL REVIEW
     
  • "Lovely descriptions of the Vineyard in the fall, plenty of suspenseful action and a cast of eccentric supporting characters, including the bikers' tough college professor leader, help make this another winner." — Publishers Weekly ...READ THE FULL REVIEW
     
  • "Victoria's official position, validated by the hat she now wears that reads, "West Tisbury, Police Deputy," has given her too much confidence, and she takes chances that horrify her boss" — St. Martin's Minotaur ...READ THE FULL REVIEW
     

Praise for The Paperwhite Narcissus

  • "In addition to the usual colorful supporting cast of West Tisbury eccentrics, Riggs introduces an utterly charming new character, the grumbly William Botts. " — Booklist ...READ THE FULL REVIEW
     
  • "When Colley Jameson, the harried, hard-drinking editor of the Island Enquirer, refuses to reinstate Victoria Trumbull's weekly column, even after the 92-year-old sheriff's deputy saves his life when his tie gets stuck in a printing press, Victoria offers her services elsewhere in Riggs's delightful fifth Martha's Vineyard mystery" — Publishers Weekly ...READ THE FULL REVIEW
     
  • "A delightfully cozy read, steeped in rich characters and a sense of place, this latest Victoria Trumbull mystery is sure to charm long-time fans and first-time readers." — St. Martin's Minotaur ...READ THE FULL REVIEW

Praise for Jack in the Pulpit

  • "Cynthia Riggs delivers one of the those rare novels that manages to combine a great story with a descriptive writing style...If you love to read, and you love to read a good detective/murder-mystery, then this book is for you." — Dan Blankenship, author of The Running Girl ...READ THE FULL REVIEW
     
  • "A sensitive observer of the scene, Riggs writes with warmth and humor about all-too-human characters with whom readers can readily identify." — Publishers Weekly ...READ THE FULL REVIEW
     
  • "In this fourth installment in her Victoria Trumbull series, Riggs offers a kind of prequel that explains why Victoria's granddaughter, Elizabeth, first came to live with her 92-year-old grandmother, and how Victoria became a deputy for the West Tisbury police." — by Jenny McLarin in Booklist ...READ THE FULL REVIEW
     
  • "Victoria's boundless energy makes Jack in the Pulpit, Cynthia Riggs's fourth Martha's Vineyard mystery, a page-turner." — by Helen Phillips in The Vineyard Gazette ...READ THE FULL REVIEW

Praise for The Cemetery Yew

  • "I stayed with the book until THE END, stopping neither to feed the cat nor turn on the evening alarms!" — by T.J. Straw in Mystery Reviews ...READ THE FULL REVIEW
     
  • "[Riggs'] knowledge of Martha's Vineyard shines in the expert evocation of the picturesque community. As satisfying as a steaming bowl of chowder on a cold New England evening." — by Jenny McLarin in Booklist ...READ THE FULL REVIEW
     
  • "Victoria Trumbull, the astute, 92-year-old Vineyard native and deputy police officer, takes on her most bizarre case yet, in Riggs's third appealing Vineyard mystery ." — Publishers Weekly ...READ THE FULL REVIEW
     
  • "Victoria is the most realistic and the most delightful nonagenarian in mystery fiction. Her years have not blunted her intelligence and her sharp wit." — St. Martin's Minotaur ...READ THE FULL REVIEW

Praise for the The Cranefly Orchid Murders

  • "Victoria Trumbull, a 92-year-old Martha's Vineyard native, deputy police officer and naturalist, continues to delight in this second outing (after 2001's Deadly Nightshade) from Vineyard native Riggs." — Publishers Weekly ...READ THE FULL REVIEW
     
  • "The second appearance of 92-year-old Victoria Trumbull, amateur sleuth, upholds the promise of her first in Deadly Nightshade. Here, she and her young assistant look for a scarce plant that might provide clues to the murder of a local attorney. A great story." — Library Journal
     
  • "Plucky 92-year-old Victoria Trumbull is back on the case in this satisfying follow-up to Riggs' series premiere, Deadly Night shade. This time she is trailing both a killer and a rare orchid. "
    — by Jenny McLarin in Booklist ...READ THE FULL REVIEW
     
  • "Riggs . . .knows the Island—its flora, fauna, families, legends, customs and rumors—so well that every pace she puts her senior sleuth through becomes another delightful discovery." — Book Page
     
  • "The author is well aware of the comedy involving people who take themselves seriously, and adds a nice satiric touch when describing the utopians, the environmentalists, the developers, the big-wigs and the would-be bigwigs. Once again, Ms. Riggs' knowledge of the Island and its people serves her and her readers well." — The Martha's Vineyard Times
     
  • "Riggs is not afraid to describe elderly poet Victoria Trumbull realistically—wrinkles and all . . . first-rate plotting . . . wonderful cast of characters . . In addition to the endearing, yet never sentimentalized Victoria, the supporting figures are uniformly compelling and thoroughly believable. . . here's hoping Victoria Trumbull is solving crimes for many years to come." — ALA Booklist
     
  • "To keep eager developers off Martha's Vineyard, poet-detective Victoria Trumbull searches for loopholes—and finds a patch of endangered cranefly orchids. But she also discovers one of the developers' underhanded lawyers pushing up daisies. And if Victoria isn't careful, a killer might take her off the endangered list-and make her extinct." — St. Martin's Minotaur

Praise for Deadly Nightshade

  • "This unabridged reading of the author’s first Martha’s Vineyard mystery (originally published in 2001) introduces that most endearing and unlikely of sleuths, ninety-two-year-old Victoria Trumbull... The narrator, with her range of voices and grasp of natural speech patterns, is ideal for this leisurely paced tale." — by Edward Morris in ForeWord Magazine ...READ THE FULL REVIEW
     
  • "[A] well-written mystery, with a host of very believable-as well as some very eccentric-characters...For a first novel, this one is quite special." — Mystery News
     
  • "[A] well-written mystery, with a host of very believable-as well as some very eccentric-characters...For a first novel, this one is quite special." — Mystery News
     
  • "Riggs shows her gift for characterizations that will have her audience clamoring for an ongoing series at least until Victoria turns one hundred." — Midwest Book Review
     
  • "First-rate plotting notwithstanding, it is Riggs's wonderful cast of characters that brings her novel to life . . Here's hoping Victoria Trumbull is solving crimes for many years to come." — ALA Booklist
     
  • "Feisty, fiercely independent nonagenarian Victoria Trumbull makes a welcome debut in Riggs's first novel ... The book's dedicatee, Donis Coffin Riggs (1898-1997), native Vineyarder and poet, would seem to be the model for Victoria. Everyone should have such a terrific grandmother." — Publisher's Weekly

The Reviews in Full
A real insider's guide to the Island
A Review of Victoria Trumbull's Martha's Vineyard
by Mathea Morais in Martha's Vineyard Patch

When traveling somewhere new, there is a definite difference between going as a tourist and staying in the home of a local resident who tells you all the best restaurants, walks and events that you just can't miss.

Now, some may argue that you cannot get the same effect from reading a guidebook as you can from knowing a local, but there is a new book out this month that may make you take up that argument. Victoria Trumbull's Martha's Vineyard Guide Book, is co-created by mystery writer Cynthia Riggs, photographer Lynn Christoffers and cartographer Stephen (Step) Wesley, and is as close as you'll get to having one of the Island's elders lead you by the hand without, well, having an Island elder lead you by the hand.

Add to that argument that this book is based on the world surrounding the fictitious Victoria Trumbull, the 92-year-old-poet-sleuth and protagonist of Riggs' mysteries and you'll really have them stumped. "I came up with this idea about two years ago," said Cynthia Riggs when we met in her brightly lit breakfast room in her 300 year old home last week. "Originally, I didn't want to be the one to write it. I don't think of myself as a tour book writer." But after attempts at having someone else write it, Riggs said she knew she had to be the one to do it.

Riggs and Christoffers are neighbors and Wesley, who was with the Inkwell Bookstore in Falmouth, became friends with Riggs while doing events for her books. Add to that combination Janet Holladay of Tisbury Printer, who did the final design, and two years later you've got a guidebook beautiful and thorough enough to do this Island justice.

"Victoria Trumbull is based on my mother," said Riggs, whose mother, Dionis Coffin Riggs was a poet, author, newspaper columnist and civic leader who was born on Martha's Vineyard and who died there at the age of 98. "Janet (Holladay) is a fan of my mother, she designed all of the books we did for my mother and she's also a poet. And she's also a genius." The book design is set up so that you feel like you're about to embark on an adventure with the wise and daring Mrs. Trumbull. Interspersed with the maps, tours and photographs, the book is peppered with Island tidbits like: What is a Pinkletink? And what is Up-Island? Then there are Dionis's poems, sometimes in full and sometimes just a stanza or two.

There are a total of six tours in the book: Tour One: Vineyard Haven to Up-Island; Tour Two: West Chop; Tour Three: West Tisbury; Tour Four: Oak Bluffs; Tour Five: Vineyard Haven to Edgartown and Tour Six: Chappaquiddick. There are also chapters dedicated to "special places" like: Waskosim's Rock; Quansoo; Sepiessa Point and The Cleaveland House. Along the way, readers are reminded to look out for particular landmarks that appear in Riggs' mysteries and anecdotes that relate back to her books. In Tour Three: West Tisbury, Riggs writes, "The Howes House is considerably more than a senior center. Some community activity is happening there every weekday, including yoga, a writers group, computer lessons and Scrabble games. The West Tisbury Board of Selectmen held its weekly meetings there before the Town Hall was renovated and numerous town meetings still convene there. It was in the parking lot behind the Howes House that Victoria Trumbull backed into the Meals on Wheels van in Jack in the Pulpit, in a series of scrapes that led to the loss of her driver's license."

Even Riggs, who said she thought she knew the Vineyard well before writing this, learned a few things. "I found out that the original name for Music Street was Cow Turd Lane," she said laughing. Whether you are a Victoria Trumbull fan or you've never read a single one of Riggs' mysteries, you will learn Island history, go down the most beautiful dirt roads and visit each corner of the Island. "I included places to go if you're coming here for a long weekend, or if you're here for a month. If you've never been here, but read the books, what are the high spots? What are some of the quirky things that you'd encounter along the way? This tour book is not comprehensive, but it does give you a feeling of the Vineyard," said Riggs.

The photographs, taken by Lynn Christoffers, offer the perfect compliment to each tour and special place. Far from being the standard high-summer landscapes, these photographs feature lone Lagoon rowboats, windswept winter dunes and late autumn walking paths. It is the Island of Victoria Trumbull and so it is the Island all year long.

With mileage clocked with the precision of a GPS that knows which roads are one way and which ones dead end, readers can follow the tours street by street or follow the "Chart of Martha's Vineyard Prepared for Victoria Trumbull Island Sleuth by Step Wesley," that includes all Island landmarks, including Victoria Trumbull's house - which is actually The Cleaveland House where Riggs now lives and runs the B&B her mother started.

According to Riggs, "We decided to self-publish because I have experience with it. I published all of my mother's books through Cleaveland House Books and my father, who wrote a wonderful book called Arrows and Snakeskin, in 1963 that was published by Little Brown, I reprinted through Tisbury Printer and now it's used as a textbook at Westchester Community College.

"The reason that self publishing has a bad reputation is because the books are not carefully edited. Plus, one of the times that self publishing works is when books are highly local and this is definitely a local book."

Already, half of the first print run has been sold. "The whole thing is very exciting," she said. "I wrote emails to all my B&B guests and they've all ordered a book. I keep all my fan emails (she gets about four a week) and sent a mass email to all those people, many of who have also ordered books. I've gotten all these neat letters back telling me things like, 'Cleaveland House is exactly what I pictured Victoria Trumbull's house to look like.'

Victoria Trumbull's Martha's Vineyard, November 8, 2011
- Copyright © 2011 Mathea Morais and Martha's Vineyard Patch. All rights reserved.


Pinkletinks and beetlebung trees
A Review of Victoria Trumbull's Martha's Vineyard
by CK Wolfson in MVTimes.com, The Martha's Vineyard Times online

In the Introduction, the author notes: "This book, Victoria Trumbull's Martha's Vineyard, is not a comprehensive guidebook. It's an insider's glimpse of the Island, seen through Victoria Trumbull's (and my) eyes, a series of tours and special places mentioned in the mysteries, of personal anecdotes, of odd Vineyard stories, of how we got our names like pinkletinks and beetlebung trees..."

And she explains: "Hitchhiking is considered environmentally sound on the Island. Saves gas and you meet interesting people."

Using Victoria Trumbull, the protagonist of her mystery book series set on the Vineyard, as the lynchpin, Cynthia Riggs has created a where-to and how-to Island tour book embellished with wonderful tidbits of Vineyard facts and history, the poetry of her late mother, noted poet Dionis Coffin Riggs (on whom the sleuth Trumbull is based), and excerpts from her mysteries.

From "Touch Me Not:" "There was a blue flash from the bedroom, a loud snap and the smell of singed wires. Nancy popped out of her bedroom, towel askew. 'I'm so sorry, Mrs. Trumbull.'

'You don't need hairdryers on Martha's Vineyard,' said Victoria with some asperity. 'There's a good west wind. We don't waste electricity.'"

In combination with a collection of Lynn Christoffers's evocative photographs of Island vistas, people, and the visual details that tell a charming story (possibly her best body of work to date), and Stephen Wesley's drawn maps, "Victoria Trumbull's Martha's Vineyard Guide Book" is as good a read as it is useful.

It's what one has come to expect from Ms. Riggs, a 13th generation Islander whose ancestry includes Benjamin Franklin. She is a staunch community activist familiar with the Island's traditions and rhythms, as well as having intimate knowledge of its nooks and crannies - all of which infuses the guidebook with its tone and personality.

"After a storm, the runoff from the red clay in the cliffs tinges the water blood red. According to Wampanoag legend, the giant Moshup caught a whale by its tail, and the red in the water is the whale's blood. Moshup Trail is named for him."

The guidebook is divided into six tours and four special places - Waskosim's Rock, Quansoo, Sepiessa Point, and Ms. Riggs' West Tisbury home, The Cleaveland House, a historic bed-and-breakfast catering to writers. There is also a chapter on Island-grown plants.

For every destination, detailed directions are provided, mentioning landmarks along the way, what lines the roads, where to park, of what to take note. There are suggestions for the hiker, biker, and boater. Ms. Riggs informs readers that there are no poisonous snakes on the Vineyard, advises hikers to wear long pants and sock to protect against ticks, gives the history of the Island's old stone walls, and warns those who might want to wade in Sepiessa to be careful not to step on the sharp oyster shells.

In Tour One: Vineyard Haven to Up-Island, the reader is taken to Tashmoo Overlook and learns that this is where Trumbull discussed academic politics with her student. Ms. Riggs provides the mileage from there to Tisbury Meadow, then on to West Tisbury, and the sprawling 200-year-old tree, Liberty Oak, at the North Road junction. She adds the one-upmanship boasts of those who find treasures at the West Tisbury Dumptique, leads the reader to Chilmark, explains that in the mid-1800s one in 25 residents there were deaf, and provides some history.

She even makes reference to Chilmark Chocolates explaining in "Indian Pipes," "Trumbull smells the fragrance of Chilmark Chocolates as her kidnappers drive past and thus is able to identify the route they took to their hideaway on the Vineyard's north shore."

The book's 177 pages are chock-full of beautiful images, fascinating details, and practical information on where to go to fully experience the Vineyard.

Vineyarders, like most people in most towns and cities, tend to travel their own well-trod paths, creating deep ruts to their routine destinations. Many up-Islanders have never dipped their toes into the waters of Tashmoo. Many down-Islanders have never explored Lobsterville or Menemsha Village. "Victoria Trumbull's Martha's Vineyard Guide Book" is as much for them as it is for Island visitors. Whether the reader is an armchair traveler or a backpacking cyclist, Cynthia Riggs's guidebook makes a perfect Island traveling companion.

Traveling the Vineyard with Victoria Trumbull, November 16, 2011
- Copyright © 2011 CK Wolfson and MVTimes.com. All rights reserved.


A true travel guide
A Review of Victoria Trumbull's Martha's Vineyard
by Melanie Lauwers on CapeCodOnline.com

Martha's Vineyard resident Cynthia Riggs is the author of a dozen murder mysteries and daughter of the late poet Dionis Coffin Riggs. Now, Cynthia Riggs has combined portions of her mother's poems with "tours" of various areas of the island, stopping at places noted in her mother's work or in her own mysteries. Lynn Christoffers' photos and Stephen Wesley's maps make this a true travel guide, while Riggs' text and poetry choices add a literary air. This is an unusual compilation but, for Vineyard lovers, one they will want to put to good use.

CapeCodOnline.com, October 30, 2011
- Copyright © 2011 Melanie Lauwers. All rights reserved.


She's got the Island's DNA in her genes
A Review of Victoria Trumbull's Martha's Vineyard
by Linda Fairstein, author of the Alex Cooper crime series

There's no better Vineyard guide than Cynthia Riggs and her character, Victoria Trumbull. She's got the Island's DNA in her genes, knows all the history as well as its mystery, and creates a spellbinding tour of my favorite place on earth.

- Copyright © 2011 Linda Fairstein. All rights reserved.


Cynthia Riggs has done it again!
A Review of Victoria Trumbull's Martha's Vineyard
by Nancy Slonim Aronie, Author of Writing from the Heart, Founder of Chilmark Writing Workshop

Cynthia Riggs has done it again! With her distilled, straightforward powerful use of language, her delicious dry sense of humor, her rich irresistible characters (real this time), she has written the ultimate tour of her magical, mystical Martha's Vineyard. You will want to go on his trip with this brilliant and oh-so-funny guide and take everone you love with you.

- Copyright © 2011 Nancy Slonim Aronie. All rights reserved.


Oh-oh. A pony tail?
A Review of The Bee Balm Murders
by Holly Nadler in The Vineyard Gazette

To stay 92 forever isn't exactly the fountain of youth. Yet our famed Island mystery writer Cynthia Riggs, far younger herself, has produced the 10th entry in her Victoria Trumbull series, this one called The Bee Balm Murders, and her protagonist, elderly poet, gardener, deputy police officer and amateur sleuth, continues to be the nonagenarian she was in the debut novel, Deadly Nightshade. And you know what? Ms. Riggs makes 92 look like the age to which we all might aspire.

Evelyn Waugh wrote about P.G. Woodhouse's books, "[His] idyllic world can never stale. He will continue to release future generations from captivity that may be more irksome than our own. He has made a world for us to live in and delight in."

Ms. Riggs with her mysteries, all of which feature a poisonous specimen of flora or fauna in her titles and plots, widens her fan base with readers who love to wander in Victoria Trumbull's world. Oh, Victoria's aches and pains sometimes catch up with her. When she kneels to harvest potatoes in her vegetable garden, she pulls herself up by her rake handle. In Bee Balm Murders, she finds an engorged deer tick on her stomach and, sure enough, the bull's eye rash that we all live in fear of, develops. The aged detective is further hampered by a debilitating course of antibiotics. And yet we trust that she's still on her game.

A sideline and embellishment to the story is the installation on Victoria's West Tisbury acres of seven bee hives, all of them managed by Sean McBride, professional beekeeper. We learn on the first page, "Each hive had twenty thousand bees. Each of the twenty thousand bees had a specific job to perform for the hive. During its short life, each of the nectar-gathering bees produced an eighth of a teaspoon of honey. And each lived only two weeks, its wings worn out from forays in search of nectar-bearing blossoms."

Can you stop reading with an introduction as engrossing as that one? You cannot!

Meanwhile, Ms. Riggs has assembled a cast of characters more colorful and diverse than any she has placed before us in the past, and this is over and above the twenty thousand bees times seven. First there is Orion Nanopoulos, a new boarder with an ingenious plan to embed a fiber-optic cable clear across the Island. Right away a dead body turns up in one of his muddy trenches: It's Angelo Vulpone, a potential investor in Orion's company and, just incidentally, an alleged mob boss.

Victoria takes an immediate dislike to vampy, middle-aged Dorothy Roche, who's renting a fancy, sterile captain's house on North Water street in Edgartown. Everyone is "darling" to Dorothy, and she wears too much perfume. We know from our long association with the all-natural Victoria that manufactured scents - cologne, hair spray, fancy hand-milled soaps - put her at a distance from the character who wafts them through the rooms.

It looks as if Dorothy is trying to horn in on Orion's project, and so is her fat, nasty, foul-mouthed boyfriend - and brother to the corpse in the trench - Basilio Vulpone, a producer of vampire movies. There is also a young investor-wannabe, Finney Solomon, whose resume is more padded than a UPS-shipped Ming vase. We dislike him immediately when he's newly arrived on Island, fetched at the ferry by Dorothy's chauffeur, and never once does he glance up from his laptop as he's whisked along the causeway, Nantucket Sound on his left, Sengekontacket on his right.

The dead man's sons show up, Primo and Umberto, hoping to enlist Victoria to find their dad's killer. Are they as prince-charming wholesome as they seem, or are they maneuvering to take over Angelo's crime syndicate?

We have some off-Island scenes of Basilio's wife, Maria Rosa and the "infidelity specialist" she hires to find out why her unpleasant husband often goes missing. When she learns the answer, we're pulling for her to let him go all-the-way missing.

And then there are the recurring roles we've come to love: Casey the chief-of-police and Victoria's best friend just down the road; Elizabeth, our sleuth's doting niece, and all the Vineyard folk encountered along the way; just like all of us who live here year-round, Ms. Trumbull knows everyone else who lives here year-round. In Bee Balm Murders, however, it seems to be the washashores doing all the harm. Plus the bees: Victoria's affable tenant and new best friend, Orion, is allergic to them. He has an EpiPen in the glove compartment of his old car.

Ms. Riggs has a talent for summing up a character in a tidy, impression-stamping paragraph: "She watched as a white-haired, mustached, deeply tanned man climbed out. In his 50s, perhaps, but she wasn't good at ages. The man gave the side of his car a pat, as though it was a horse that had delivered him safely to her door. His trim body and mustache gave him the look of a cavalry officer; at least from the front. When he turned, his long, white ponytail altered the effect. He was wearing jeans, an open-necked short-sleeved blue shirt and worn, highly polished engineer's boots."

Oh-oh. A pony tail? In the movies, that invariably signals a bad guy. Will Orion be an exception? And what about his permanently pleasant expression - could that mask something deeper and darker?

In the Victoria Trumbull mysteries, the plot twists and character revelations keep coming. Open this new saga with a caveat: You'll be winched to your chair until you finish. Make sure you have plenty of snacks on hand and favorite beverages.

Cynthia Riggs is a 13th generation Islander who lives on her family's homestead which she runs as a bed and breakfast, catering to poets and writers. She has a degree in geology from Antioch College and a master's degree in creative writing from Vermont College. A descendent of sea captains, she herself holds a U.S. Coast Guard Master's License.

The Bee Balm Murders is available at the Bunch of Grapes Bookstore in Vineyard Haven, Edgartown Books, and The Secret Garden in Oak Bluffs.

 

Vineyard Gazette, July 5, 2011
- Copyright © 2011 Holly Nadler in the Vineyard Bookshelf. All rights reserved.


Bee Careful
A Review of The Bee Balm Murders
by Valerie A. Russo for Patriot Ledger

Killers should steer clear of Martha's Vineyard because senior sleuth Victoria Trumbull always finds out who did the crime. Read how the spry 92-year-old cracks the latest case involving beehives, fiber optic cables and shady investers in The Bee Balm Murders, the 10th Martha's Vineyard Mystery by author Cynthia Riggs of West Tibsbury.

Patriot Ledger, March 2011
- Copyright © 2011 Valerie A. Russo. All rights reserved.


Another delightful entry in the Martha's Vineyard series
A Review of The Bee Balm Murders
by Linda Fairstein

The Bee Balm Murders is another delightful entry in Cynthia Riggs's Martha's Vineyard series. Victoria Trumbull—my favorite senior sleuth—is back in action, keeping my beloved Island safe from deadly intruders, and making it ever so much more interesting and fun.

- Copyright © 2011 Linda Fairstein. All rights reserved.


Darkly comic machinations to cover up
A Review of Touch-Me-Not
by Jon L. Breen in The Jury Box, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine

The ninth case for 92-year-old Victoria Trumbull, police deputy in a small Massachusetts town, involves stalking, electronic voyeurism, quilting, and a case of manslaughter that a local electrician goes through sometimes darkly comic machinations to cover up. The novel combines inverted detection and whodunit, with involving characters and a well-realized Martha's Vineyard background.

The Jury Box, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, February 2011
- Copyright © 2011 Jon L. Breen. All rights reserved.


Expresses much of the year-round Island style and culture
A Review of Touch-Me-Not
by C.K. Wolfson
The Martha's Vineyard Times

Cynthia Riggs, West Tisbury's own town and Island activist, and innkeeper, is close to the halfway point of her goal of writing 20 books since "Deadly Nightshade," the first in her Martha's Vineyard Mystery series, was published in 2001.

Similar to the others, her ninth and most polished novel, "Touch-Me-Not" (her novels are cryptically named after flowers), is set on the Vineyard, and expresses much of the year-round Island style and culture. While the events and characters are all fictitious, it's impossible for an Islander not to find recognizable aspects — composites of neighbors and of almost-but-not-quite news-making Island landmarks, happenings, and details: moped accidents, movie nights at the West Tisbury Library, the Chappy ferry, fishing at Wasque, the prevalence of hitchhiking, and when one character asks what she should wear to dinner, she is told, "Clean jeans."

"Touch-Me-Not" (flower is a natural antidote for poison ivy) begins quietly with typical Vineyard routines: A guest in an old house blows a fuse using her hairdryer. Popular Island electrician LeRoy Watts is summoned; can't be fixed in a single visit. But then, LeRoy is having a tough time, being blackmailed by Jerry Sparks, a former employee, and accidentally tasers him to death and hides the body in West Tisbury's library's book shed. There are scandals, a mysterious obscene caller, another murder, and an ecological quilting contest to come.

Ms. Riggs, a 13th-generation Islander, daughter of poet Dionis Riggs, runs a bed and breakfast catering to poets and writers in her 1700s family homestead, The Cleaveland House. She created and hosted a local television show, and has been a candidate for several West Tisbury town posts and served on Island and town boards, so she's collected first-hand insights to the way the Island operates. Her authenticity is reflected on every page, making her writing rich with the eccentric and wonderful interactions Islanders take for granted.

The well-woven plots and subplots are character driven, and the series's protagonists are all strong, independent, and resourceful women led by the 92-year old sleuth Victoria Trumbull (patterned after Ms. Riggs's mother, active until her death at 98); Victoria's granddaughter, dockmaster Elizabeth; and West Tisbury Police Chief Casey O'Neill.

In "Touch-Me-Not," the women in a knitting group making a three-dimensional statement against global warming are being harassed by a heavy-breathing telephone caller. At the same time this is revealed, Victoria and Chief O'Neill are trying to track down the missing Mr. Sparks, only to realize there is a murder to solve.

And then there are the family issues that arise. For Victoria, it comes in the person of her daughter, Amelia (Elizabeth's mother), who comes from California to see if Victoria is capable of independent living.

While the book is a quick read — Ms. Riggs's wicked sense of humor plays well against her crafted moments of suspense — the characters own their moments. She has clearly honed her skills as an author, and does not rush the telling. It is well-paced, taking time for the nuances, quirky asides, and descriptions that draw in her readers:

"The air smelled of fresh green growth. A catbird mewed from the cedar tree. Four polka-dotted guinea fowl strutted past them, the hen calling out a tiresome, "Go back! Go back! Go back! Go back!" until Victoria hurled a clump of grass at her and the hen scurried off. Redwing blackbirds called. The honey bees from Neal Flynn's hives hummed in the wisteria."

One should know by now never to underestimate Ms. Riggs. Educated as a geologist, she taught at the Annapolis Sailing School, lived on a 44-foot houseboat for 12 years while running the Chesapeake Bay Ferry Boat Company, was a rigger at Martha's Vineyard Shipyard, and in her late 60s, she earned an MFA in creative writing from Vermont College, and has, in each ensuing year, produced one of the Vineyard-based, Victoria Trumbull mysteries. Well done.

 

- From the August 26th, 2010 edition of The Martha's Vineyard Times.
The original article is available online.
Copyright © The Martha's Vineyard Times


Victoria is on the hunt
A Review of Touch-Me-Not
Richmond Times-Dispatch

Don't call author Cynthia Riggs (born in 1931) elderly. And don't aim that label at her 92-year-old sleuth, Victoria Trumbull, either.
In "Touch-Me-Not" (272 pages, Minotaur Books, $24.99), Victoria, a quasi-deputy sheriff on Martha's Vineyard, faces a number of questions.

First, electrician LeRoy Watts accidentally kills his no-account, blackmailing former employee, Jerry Sparks, by firing a Taser gun at him. Stunned by what he has done, Watts hides the body.

Meanwhile, a number of women in an island knitting group report receiving stalker-type phone calls. As if that's not enough, another violent death takes place, and Victoria is on the hunt.

Filled with charming descriptions of life on Martha's Vineyard - particularly its natural beauty - and graced with the presence of an admirable and amiable heroine, Riggs' series continues to delight.

Book Bag Blog, Richmond Times-Dispatch, Sep 19, 2010
- Copyright © Richmond Times-Dispatch. All rights reserved.


Möbius strips and Klein bottles
A Review of Touch-Me-Not
Publishers Weekly

Near the start of Riggs's delightful ninth Martha's Vineyard mystery featuring 92-year-old sleuth Victoria Trumbull (after 2009's Death and Honesty), electrician LeRoy Watts shoots his former assistant, Jerry Sparks, with a Taser after Jerry confronts him in his Oak Bluffs office and threatens blackmail. Jerry drops to the floor dead. Moments before LeRoy's nine-year-old twin sons burst in the door from baseball practice, he stuffs Jerry in the office closet.

Later, LeRoy takes the body to a book storage shed at the West Tisbury library, where the "mathematical" knitters (they do Möbius strips and Klein bottles) are working on a special coral reef quilt to raise awareness of global warming. One of the women in the knitting group asks Victoria for help because she's been receiving obscene phone calls. A second murder raises the stakes in a cozy that celebrates the springtime beauty of the island as well as its quirky, endearing residents.

- Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


For the slightly unhinged reader who loves wit, lots of plot twists and a little heady confusion
A Review of Death and Honesty
by Barbara Clark
Staff Review in The Barnstable Patriot

After finishing Death and Honesty, I find that I really like the way Cynthia Riggs handles her literary creation – 92-year-old sleuth Victoria Trumbull, who’s the central character in the author’s Martha’s Vineyard Mystery series.

While Victoria may be notable among fictional detectives for her somewhat advanced age, Riggs concedes her nothing, nor does she try to flatter. Instead of emphasizing Victoria’s chronological age and thus patronizing her or, conversely, inventing some unusual reason why we should pay attention to someone who’s that old, Riggs simply lets Victoria stand on her own merits, which turn out to be considerable.

She’s an erstwhile poet who’s also a deputy with the West Tisbury Police, and her good judgment and sleuthing abilities are frequently sought out by her friends and neighbors. After a few pages we forget the age thing, which is as it should be in a series as good as this one.

Death and Honesty is a witty amalgam of characters inhabiting a plot designed for the slightly unhinged reader who loves wit, lots of plot twists and a little heady confusion. Victoria mixes it up with three elderly town assessors and their hand-picked town clerk, who’ve been doing some profitable skimming off the town’s tax bills.

She gets on the scene of a couple of murders, and renews her acquaintance with a former friend, now playing the part of a mysterious chauffeur. Add to this mix a spiritual leader who runs a few side projects that stray from a strictly religious format, and his sexy wife, Delilah, who has some offbeat ideas of her own.

There’s also an intriguing assortment of animals, including a peripatetic rooster, goats that faint, turtles that snap, and a nosy Jack Russell terrier.

Riggs has a gift for dialogue, and Death and Honesty crackles with good humor throughout. A thirteenth-generation Martha’s Vineyarder herself, the author commands a good view of both the Vineyard scenery and the island’s mix of characters, including a Greek chorus of regulars who comment on the action from the porch of Alley’s General Store.

Readers of all stripes will surely enjoy this mix of good humor, solid characters and familiar locale. Cheers to Victoria and friends; I’m looking forward to adventures still to come.

- From The Barnstable Patriot, print and online editions, September 18, 2009
Copyright © 2009 The Barnstable Patriot. All rights reserved.


A well-written cozy
A Review of Death and Honesty
by Nash Black, author of Writing as a Small Business and Haints
on Bird's Eye View Book Reviews

Death and Honesty by Cynthia Riggs continues the sleuthing skills of Victoria Trumbull for the delight of the author's many fans. Victoria is ninety-two-years-old and her nosiness when it comes to murder has earned her the position of a deputy on the local police force, which is a responsibility Victoria strives to fulfill.

Cynthia Riggs parlays a varied background and a position as a thirteenth-generation Islander on Martha's Vineyard into an outstanding series that gains more fans as each addition is published.

Victoria discovers the body of a neighbor who happens to be one of the community's tax-assessors. No one really cares for a person who fulfills this position, but murder is taking distaste too far.

Another name for honesty is money plant and though its bright bluish/purple bloom is lovely in a late-spring garden; it is invasive and roots out frailer plants.

This soon happens as Victoria discovers the tax-assessors have been raising the assessment values on properties owned by the seasonal residents, the extra income is not evident in the towns coffers.

Delilah Sampson is one such owner who is facing financial crisis of her own. The heat begins to build for Delilah when the body of the private pilot for a disreputable minister is found in her pond. A former helpful friend of Victoria's is acting as Delilah's chauffeur under another name, which leads Victoria to wonder if he, too, is no longer to be trusted.

Join Victoria in a cozy mystery that is well plotted, filled with humor and substance that will take you to the beach. A well-written cozy is a welcome break for the deluge of heavy chiller-thrillers.

- From Bird's Eye View online, October 8, 2009
Copyright © 2009 Nash Black and Bird's Eye View. All rights reserved.


Quarrelling with neighbors over an out of control rooster
A Review of Death and Honesty
by Stephen Wesley
Staff Review in The Quill

Death is what it is whether it is by natural causes or murder, and "Honesty" or "Lunaria" is known as the money plant. Together these two words form the title of Ms. Riggs eighth book featuring ninety-two-year-old sleuth Victoria Trumbull. All of her novels are named after plants or flowers which serve as clues to the mysteries.

Set on the island of Martha's Vineyard in modern times, the book has a Ms. Marple quality to the story. Islanders with oddities and old fashioned ways such as making jellied candies from island berries, raising chickens and goats, and quarrelling with neighbors over an out of control rooster that crows morning, noon and night.

The book opens with Victoria on an investigation involving murder and mistaken identity. Soon we discover the island's three town real estate assessors, Ellen, Ocyepete, and Selena are running a tax scam on wealthy property owners by sending overassessed bills and stockpiling the money into secret accounts.

When a fourth party becomes involved wanting a piece of the pie….more bodies begin appearing. Page flipping becomes a habit as Victoria is on to the scam and making headway into solving the murders. A sub-plot involving one of the rich homeowners, an unholy clergyman, and a chauffeur thickens the plot.

Ms. Riggs uses rapid fire dialogue effectively as a way to propel the story, and it also makes the characters all the more real. Her prose is clear and flowing.

Death and Honesty makes a great, fun beach read. My only regret with this novel is that the character Victoria Trumbull did not have her usual Saturday night fare of baked beans.

- From The Quill, A newsletter of The Inkwell Bookstore
June 2009 Edition, Volume 5, Number 6
Copyright © 2009 The Inkwell Bookstore. All rights reserved.


The first body that turns up...
A Review of Death and Honesty
by Carole Goldberg
Hartford Courant

Cynthia Riggs might have called this "Martha's Vineyard Mystery," her eighth set on the island, "Death and Taxes." That's because the first body that turns up is one of three town assessors involved in overcharging rich property owners to feather their own retirement nests. Next to go is the pilot for the hypocritical clergyman husband of Delilah, a TV star who has a Vineyard home. He runs afoul of some nasty snapping turtles. Then a town clerk goes to that big filing cabinet in the sky. What's Victoria Trumbull, the heroine, to do? At 92, this poetry-writing amateur detective and island native takes on the case, with the help of her friendly rival, Emery Meyer, who is driving Miss Delilah around.

Riggs, herself a 13th generation Vineyarder, runs a bed-and-breakfast there for poets and writers and has a degree in geology. Her lush description of the island and its creatures makes her witty mysteries even more pleasurable to read.

Excerpted from "Books as Light as a Sea Breeze; Summer Reading", Hartford Courant, June 28, 2009
- Copyright © 2009 The Hartford Courant Company. All rights reserved.


A body in the pantry, a body in the pond and a body in the attic
A Review of Death and Honesty
Richmond Times-Dispatch

There's a body in the pantry, a body in the pond and a body in the attic. And here to investigate is Victoria Trumbull, the intrepid 92-year-old heroine of Cynthia Riggs' series set on Martha's Vineyard.

Death and Honesty is the eighth installment in Riggs' string of mysteries, all named for varieties of plants. This time out, Victoria, a poet as well as a special police deputy, must deal with three crooked tax assessors (all septuagenarian women), a predatory evangelist, the evangelist's wife (a former call girl) and a rooster that won't shut up.

With her trademark tenacity, Victoria susses out the killer as Riggs weaves the plot threads together into a credible whole.

Victoria is the epitome of Yankee rectitude and fortitude; with each novel, she becomes more endearing. And Riggs -- a 13th-generation islander -- writes with Yankee ingenuity and dry humor, creates realistic characters and has a good ear for dialogue. She's a perfect tour guide for an armchair excursion to the Vineyard.

Excerpted from "Kids and killers; TV, taxes and towns", Richmond Times-Dispatch, May 31, 2009
- Copyright © Richmond Times-Dispatch. All rights reserved.


A great beach read...
A Review of Death and Honesty
by Valerie A. Russo
The Patriot Ledger

A great beach read on a Vineyard vacation is Death and Honesty, a Martha’s Vineyard murder mystery involving a trio of crooked assessors and their accomplices by author Cynthia Riggs of West Tisbury.

The 227-page hardcover from St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur is the eighth book in the series featuring Victoria Trumbull, the 92-year-old amateur sleuth who always cracks the case.

Excerpted from "Window Dressing", The Patriot Ledger, May 26, 2009
- Copyright © The Patriot Ledger. All rights reserved.


Engaging eighth Martha’s Vineyard mystery...
A Review of Death and Honesty
Publishers Weekly

Victoria Trumbull, indomitable 92-year-old deputy police officer and poet, investigates smalltown skulduggery in Riggs’s engaging eighth Martha’s Vineyard mystery (after 2007’s Shooting Star). Along with the dead body of widow Lucy Pease, Victoria finds property cards containing tax information in the home of one of the three town assessors, Ellen Meadows, who’s off island. Knowing these cards should never have left the town hall, Ellen gets on the trail of a skimming scheme involving the assessors and their clerk, Oliver Ashpine.

Meanwhile, Victoria learns that Ashpine is threatening to reveal the unsavory past of Delilah Sampson, a flamboyant TV star who owns an island property, if Delilah doesn’t pay her outrageously high property tax. Getting an agricultural “restriction” by turning her property into a farm could be the solution to Delilah’s problem. Once again, Riggs, a 13th-generation Vineyarder, depicts the flaws and foibles of her island characters with sympathy and humor.

- Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Labyrinth full of puzzles, dead ends, and humorous surprises...
A Review of Death and Honesty
by Dan Cabot
The Martha's Vineyard Times

The latest Martha's Vineyard mystery in the popular series by West Tisbury's Cynthia Riggs [was] released early in May. As always, the star is Victoria Trumbull, the nonagenarian poet and sleuth based on Dionis Coffin Riggs (1898-1997), Cynthia Riggs's talented and indomitable mother.

In a preface to "Death and Honesty," Ms. Riggs writes, "Victoria is very much alive to me, and I gather she is to you [her fans] too. She'll stay 92 forever, which she claims is her best year so far."

Video footage by Sam DeckerIn response to a question from The Times, Ms. Riggs acknowledged that Victoria has evolved a little over the course of several novels, "But not much. [My mother] was such a strong character. I had thought that Dionis would get diluted and Victoria would go her own way, but that hasn't happened."

This time the hanky-panky begins in the town hall, with three crooked assessors, whose names Ms. Riggs says are based on the harpies in Greek myth, and their weaseling clerk, who is also the tax collector. Add a wealthy former porn queen married to a nasty TV evangelist, a mysterious chauffer, and, of course, a few murders, and you're off down a twisting up-Island labyrinth full of puzzles, dead ends, and humorous surprises.

It should be noted that with few exceptions, the fictional West Tisbury in Ms. Riggs's novel is only superficially the same as the one where we live. For one thing, we have far fewer murders. Some of the geography is the same (the police station, the town hall, Alley's store, the names of major roads). A few characters are recognizable. For example, Mary Kathleen "Casey" O'Neill, the lady police chief who sometimes calls on Victoria's powers of detection, is pretty clearly based on Beth Toomey.

 

But Ms. Riggs told The Times that her characters are not intended to be real people with fictional names. "My books are not romans à clef," she says. It amuses her that none of her friends and acquaintances ever seem to see themselves in the villainous characters, but four or five will ask, confidentially, if they are not the source of the same positive character.

Those who know Ms. Riggs will recall that she has not been an admirer of the real West Tisbury assessors, and was herself once an unsuccessful candidate for the position on a platform of reform. Although her political opinions may underlie the germination of the story, the nefarious activities of the fictional assessors have nothing to do with her quarrel with the real appraisal system.

Non-gardeners may be surprised that Ms. Riggs's latest mystery does not at first glance seem to be following her custom of titling her books with the names of flowers ("Shooting Star," "The Paperwhite Narcissus," "Jack in the Pulpit," "Deadly Nightshade"). However, the reader soon learns that honesty is a flower too. The botanical name is Lunaria (it also goes by money plant, moonwort, satin flower, and silver dollar). That said, fans will not be at all surprised that the flower name in the title is given an ironic twist in the story. Victoria is warned that honesty, the flower, is an invasive plant, likely to spread where it's not wanted. She plants it anyway. Honesty, the virtue, is likely to be scarce in the fictional West Tisbury where crime and murder blossom. Not to worry: Victoria herself is honest to a fault.

Ms. Riggs's next novel, her ninth, will be titled "Touch-Me-Not.

 

- From the April 16th, 2009 edition of The Martha's Vineyard Times.
The original article and video interview are available online.
Copyright © The Martha's Vineyard Times


Yet another irresistible beach read...
A Review of Shooting Star
Publishers Weekly

Riggs's pleasing seventh Martha's Vineyard mystery (after 2006's Indian Pipes) finds her 92-year-old heroine, Victoria Trumbull, a poet and deputy police officer, becoming a playwright for a summertime stage adaptation of Frankenstein. The amateur theatrical troupe — which includes such locals as DEA agent Howland Atherton (playing the monster) and high school student Dawn Haines (playing Frankenstein's bride) — prepares for opening night under the dictatorial leadership of artistic director Dearborn Hall.

The production is beset by tragedy when its eight-year-old star, Teddy Vanderhoop, goes missing, and his neighbor, also an actress in the show, is found murdered. Demoralized by the death and disappearance, much of the cast drops out, but Dearborn insists the show must go on — with farcical results. Riggs delivers yet another irresistible beach read.

- Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Everyone is depicted in colorful broad strokes...
A Review of Shooting Star
By GraceAnne DeCandido
Booklist

This lightly plotted mystery is full of the flora, fauna, and aroma of Martha's Vineyard. The owlish Victoria Trumbull, poet, police deputy, and playwright at age 92, is horrified when her version of Frankenstein, written for the local community theater, turns from social commentary to farce—and cast members keep dying.

Everyone is depicted in colorful broad strokes—drunken director, amiable local police, bright-eyed teens—and Victoria manages to feed and house most of them as well as solve mayhem and heartbreak. A lot about the joys of community theater is tucked in among the soup, rescued puppies, and ugly divorces.

- Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved.


Will have the audience applauding for encore performances...
A Review of Shooting Star
By Harriet Klausner

The seventh Martha's Vineyard mystery thriller is a fun lighthearted tale that fans of the series will fully enjoy. Besides insight into the original Frankenstein, the whodunit is shrewdly set up from almost the onset keeping readers wondering who and why.

SHOOTING STAR is a wonderful amateur sleuth tale (although the feisty heroine has become certified as a graduate of the Tisbury Citizen Police Academy) that will have the audience applauding for encore performances.

- Copyright © Harriet Klausner


The narrator is ideal for this leisurely paced tale...
A Review of Deadly Nightshade on audio tape, narrated by Davina Porter
By Edward Morris
ForeWord Magazine

This unabridged reading of the author’s first Martha’s Vineyard mystery (originally published in 2001) introduces that most endearing and unlikely of sleuths, ninety-two-year-old Victoria Trumbull. She’s a well-regarded poet who puts her keen powers of observation to work after she hears a murder being committed one evening in the harbor at Oak Bluffs, where her granddaughter, Elizabeth, is the assistant harbormaster. The victim turns out to be Bernie Marble, a town official and hotel owner who may have been involved in transporting drugs, skimming harbor receipts, and other unsavory enterprises. More bodies will be dropping before the puzzle is finally solved.

Because the Oak Bluffs police chief is Marble’s business partner and generally thought to be crooked himself, Trumbull teams up with Domingo, the harbormaster and former New York cop, to investigate the murder. There is no shortage of suspects. In addition to the shady police chief, there’s a menacing townie named Meatloaf; a former MIT prof with a sleek yacht and a $5 million Vineyard home purportedly purchased from his software-design fortune; and the hulking Dojan Minnowfish, a member of the island’s Wampanoag tribe who takes a liking to Trumbull when he discovers she was a friend of his great-grandmother.

 

The author, a thirteenth-generation resident of Martha’s Vineyard, based the character of Victoria on her mother, the poet and newspaper columnist Dionis Coffin Riggs, who died in 1997 at the age of ninety-eight. Given such grounding, it’s only natural that the island itself becomes a major character, one that Riggs depicts with exquisite attention to details, sounds, and colors. She even provides an amusing Greek chorus via the patrons of the Artcliff Diner, an actual eatery in the town of Vineyard Haven. Their wry conversations about local personalities and goings-on are priceless.

The narrator, with her range of voices and grasp of natural speech patterns, is ideal for this leisurely paced tale. Rather than mimicking the clipped New England accent, her characters sound English, some with overtones of Welsh. The mixture works, enabling her to move smoothly from Trumbull’s more refined musings to Domingo’s gruff profanity without descending into caricature.

A few incidents in the book seem contrived—such as the final confrontation scene around Trumbull’s dinner table—but this is still a rousing good yarn and ample evidence of Riggs’s extraordinary gift for intrigue and description. She has since authored five more engaging Vineyard mysteries, including The Paperwhite Narcissus and Indian Pipes.

- Copyright © ForeWord Magazine.


... prose that makes the book sing
A Review of Indian Pipes
By Hermine Hull
The Martha's Vineyard Times

There are many levels on which to enjoy Cynthia Riggs's latest mystery, "Indian Pipes." If you love the Vineyard it is great fun to read about familiar places, some not so familiar, and to try to guess who the characters might be. There is the twisting and turning plot of a good murder mystery. And there is prose, beautifully written, by a wonderful writer.

Cynthia Riggs is a thirteenth-generation Islander. She lives here year-round and runs a B&B and workshops for writers and poets in her family home, The Cleaveland House, in West Tisbury. So her stories have the feel of the Island. Her dirt roads lead to secret places and her characters seem familiar. Her detective, Victoria Trumbull, is clearly a paean to her mother, poet Dionis Coffin Riggs. Reading of Victoria's adventures, gestures, attitudes, and common sense, I vividly picture Mrs. Riggs as I remember her.

The basic plot involves Wampanoag tribal politics, the issue of casino gambling, a motorcycle rally held on the Island, and of course, a murder. That brings sibling rivalries and an inheritance into the mix. The characters are well drawn and colorful, their motives understandable. In the New York Times Sunday Book Review, reviewer Marilyn Stasio wrote, "People are so nice in West Tisbury that even the villains seem less than evil - more like seriously naughty."

But it is the prose that makes the book sing. Here is a description of Victoria and her granddaughter, Elizabeth, entering a house down on one of West Tisbury's south shore coves: "The entry was hung with coats and yellow slickers, a denim carpenter's apron, a couple of

baseball caps. Three or four fishing rods, a kayak paddle, and a pair of oars were propped against the inner door, and a collection of lures, most of them old looking, lined a shelf. Spider webs festooned the ceiling, wedded the sleeve of one coat to another, strung the lines of the fishing rods together. The splintery wood floor, partially covered with a worn piece of linoleum, had a collection of hip boots, waders, and worn leather boots, their rusty eyelets laced with rawhide thongs, green with mold."

As the plot thickens, Victoria uses all her wiles and courage to trap the killer. While waiting, however, she is often found sitting quietly on a rock or against a tree trunk, writing poetry in her ever-present notebook. The development of her sestina, "a poem with six lines and a final triplet, all stanzas having the same six words at the line ends in six different sequences," according to my Oxford English Dictionary, weaves its way throughout the book. I felt disappointed never to be able to read the completed sestina and remain curious about its development, but I must remember that this is a work of fiction. Maybe there was no sestina.

As I read along, I never figured out who the murderer was, which to me, an inveterate murder mystery reader, is the mark of a good plot, so I was quite satisfied at the eventual denouement. Victoria and her collection of associate sleuths orchestrated an exciting ending. And I was grateful for a bout of insomnia, which gave me an extra few hours of middle-of-the-night reading time in this busy summer season. If you don't have insomnia, I am sure a beach chair or hammock will do just fine for a perfect summer afternoon with a good book like this one.

- Copyright © The Martha's Vineyard Times.


... seriously naughty
A Review of Indian Pipes
By Marilyn Stasio
The New York Times

... [The Cape Cod] region is currently awash in fictional murder and mayhem. Cynthia Riggs's INDIAN PIPES (Thomas Dunne/St. Martin's Minotaur, $22.95) is typical of the cozy mysteries inspired by the picturesque charms of Martha's Vineyard, with its quiet coves and quaint cottages. Victoria Trumbull, the 92-year-old sleuth in this series, is the most tolerant person in West Tisbury on issues ranging

from a neighbor's homosexuality to an Indian tribe's proposal for a gambling casino. But when an engineer performing soil tests on tribal land is found dead at the bottom of a 200-foot cliff, Victoria realizes it's up to her to save her beloved community from destroying itself. People are so nice in West Tisbury that even the villains seem less than evil — more like seriously naughty.

This is an excerpt from The New York Times Book Review, Murder for Relaxation on June 4, 2006.
- Copyright © The New York Times Company.


... another winner
A Review of Indian Pipes
From Publishers Weekly

At the start of Riggs's warm and witty sixth Martha's Vineyard mystery to feature Victoria Trumbull (after 2005's The Paperwhite Narcissus), the feisty 92-year-old deputy sheriff stumbles on the body of a neighbor, reclusive engineer Jube Burkhardt, who appears to have fallen to his death from a cliff. Two days earlier, Jube attended a meeting of the local Wampanoag tribal council about testing soil for a prospective casino's septic system. Not surprisingly, many islanders oppose the casino project. The

arrival of a gang of motorcyclists who like to stunt-ride further raises the temperature. Victoria's investigation leads her to a second body, a burning house, a missing computer and considerable personal peril. Lovely descriptions of the Vineyard in the fall, plenty of suspenseful action and a cast of eccentric supporting characters, including the bikers' tough college professor leader, help make this another winner.

- Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


She takes chances that horrify her boss...
Product description of Indian Pipes
by St. Martin's Minotaur

Dense fog shrouds the colorful clay cliffs of Gay Head on the westernmost end of the Island as 92-year-old poet Victoria Trumbull becomes involved in her sixth Martha's Vineyard Mystery.

She and her granddaughter Elizabeth are taking a break before heading home after visiting a too talkative friend. As they stand by the fence savoring the fresh sea air, the rays from the lighthouse above them illuminate something that seems to be moving far below. Victoria can only catch glimpses through gaps in the streaming fog in the rotating red and white beams.

Victoria and her Wampanoag friend Dojan Minnowfish, who has returned to the Island from exile in Washington, D.C., try to prevent a series of baffling murders that seem to have something to do with a Harley Davidson and Indian motorcycle rally,

tribal members fighting for and against an Island gambling casino, landowners concerned about escalating property taxes, developers squabbling over land, and deeply buried family secrets surfacing.

Victoria, a deputy police officer, has proved her value to Island crime fighting. She knows almost everybody on the Island, is related to most of them, and knows who's not speaking to whom and why.

But her official position, validated by the hat she now wears that reads, "West Tisbury, Police Deputy," has given her too much confidence, and she takes chances that horrify her boss, Chief Mary Kathleen (Casey) O'Neill. Victoria compensates for her physical limitations by outthinking the bad guys every time -- or almost every time.

- Copyright © St. Martin's Minotaur. All rights reserved.


An utterly charming new character...
A Review of The Paperwhite Narcissus
From Booklist

Fans of Riggs' Martha's Vineyard mysteries already love the series' ninety-something protagonist, Victoria Trumbull. This fifth adventure will only strengthen that bond. The delightful Victoria is at her best here, confronting Colley Jameson, the obnoxious editor of the Island Enquirer, who has threatened to replace her West Tisbury news column with a younger person's outlook. Then, when Colley begins receiving odd obituaries about himself that coincide with murders occurring in the area, he reluctantly hires Victoria to investigate. As Victoria tries to figure out who is responsible for three

murders and the threats against Colley, numerous suspects appear, including bitter ex-wives and one greedy ex-husband. In addition to the usual colorful supporting cast of West Tisbury eccentrics, Riggs introduces an utterly charming new character, the grumbly William Botts. Founder and editor of the one-page Island Grackle, Botts leads a simple life--until Victoria begins writing for him and causes his subscriber numbers to skyrocket. As usual, Riggs paints a thoroughly compelling picture of island life. Like Victoria, this series gets more charming with age. - Jenny McLarin

- Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved.


Riggs's delightful fifth Martha's Vineyard mystery
A Review of The Paperwhite Narcissus
From Publishers Weekly

When Colley Jameson, the harried, hard-drinking editor of the Island Enquirer, refuses to reinstate Victoria Trumbull's weekly column, even after the 92-year-old sheriff's deputy saves his life when his tie gets stuck in a printing press, Victoria offers her services elsewhere in Riggs's delightful fifth Martha's Vineyard mystery (after 2004's Jack in the Pulpit ). William Botts, editor of the West Tisbury Grackle , a one-page news sheet that sells for a dime, is happy to take on Victoria as an unpaid reporter, especially after she scoops the Enquirer with a story about two

halves of a body found at widely separated locations. The deceased turns out to be an unloved developer, and the plot soon thickens with a fatal poisoning, threatening letters, disgruntled ex-wives and a third murder. By this point in the series, Riggs has achieved an easy style and comfortable pace that perfectly suit her heroine. Vineyard watchers may miss the focus on environmental concerns of earlier books, but they'll be relieved to find that the Enquirer and Grackle bear no resemblance to the two actual Martha's Vineyard newspapers.

- Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Steeped in rich characters and a sense of place
Product description of The Paperwhite Narcissus
by St. Martin's Minotaur

In this fifth book in the Victoria Trumbull series, the ninety-two-year-old sleuth finds herself embroiled in a series of murders after she is fired from her job as West Tisbury correspondent for The Island Enquirer (the editor claims the newspaper needs a younger look).

Victoria, determined to show that age is no barrier to newspapering, immediately throws her weight behind The Grackle, intent on turning the two-page West Tisbury newsletter into a formidable competitor of the Enquirer. And it looks as though she will.

In the meantime, the Enquirer's narcissistic editor has been receiving a series of obituaries, each naming him as the deceased. He would dismiss them as a sick joke, but the obituaries follow the actual deaths of people close to him. Rather than going to the police, he grudgingly rehires Victoria to

uncover the identity of the obituary writer. Victoria knows almost everybody on the Island, and she may be the only person who can solve the mystery before the editor needs a genuine obituary of his own.

In The Paperwhite Narcissus, as in the four previous books in the series, Cynthia Riggs explores the rich and varied setting of Martha's Vineyard in a way that only a native Islander can. The story glides from Wasque, the desolate southeast corner of Chappaquiddick, to the Coast Guard boat ramp in Menemsha; from the elegantly maintained Captains' houses in Edgartown to the wild Atlantic Ocean beach at Quansoo.

A delightfully cozy read, steeped in rich characters and a sense of place, this latest Victoria Trumbull mystery is sure to charm long-time fans and first-time readers.

- Copyright © St. Martin's Minotaur. All rights reserved.


Victoria Trumball is Amazing
A Review of Jack in the Pulpit
by Dan Blankenship, author of The Running Girl

August 2004

Cynthia Riggs delivers one of the those rare novels that manages to combine a great story with a descriptive writing style. Too many narratives that provide vivid imagery to the surrounding environment, in which their story takes place, lose the emphasis on plot development.

The main character (Victoria Trumbull) in this fine work is a ninety-two-year-old resident of West Tisbury (Martha's Vineyard Mystery Series) with a sharp mind and a lot of attitude. I found myself enjoying Victoria's character development throughout the entire novel. She reminded me of so many people I have met over the years. Her stubbornness and bluntness make her a character who you enjoy learning more about. I think we all have a little of Victoria Trumbull in all of us.

There are three things I look for in a novel; this one has all three:

1. A great entry. Jack in the Pulpit does that on page one. Bravo to Cynthia Riggs! A first few paragraphs that grab you into the story, and she didn't have to rely on profanity, sex, or a disgusting murder scene on that first page to do so. If your not sure what I am talking about - go to the best-seller fiction rack and look at the first pages of most of the novels. They usually have the "F" word, a murder, or a graphic sexual comment on the first page; not all of them, but a LOT of them.

2. Characters who you would love to meet in person - if they were actually real. Riggs manages to do that with a lot of the characters in this novel. There are a few characters that needed a bit more development (e.g. Victoria's artistic renters), but for the most part, this novel does a great job of character development.

 

3. Keeping the story moving along while it grabs the reader into the surrounding environment. I have a hard time reading anything by Charles Dickens because his writing becomes so descriptive that the story-line disappears inside a honeycomb of surroundings. By the time some authors finish describing a room, you forget why the protagonist entered the room in the first place. I believe Cynthia Riggs has found the perfect balance in her writing. I can picture the surroundings without forgetting why it is important to the story.

I don't want to give away the plot of this fictional work by going into too much detail, but it is a murder-mystery that has more than one story going on at a time. Victoria's granddaughter, Elizabeth, comes to stay with her after her marriage heads south. People in West Tisbury begin to die (no I'm not telling you more about that) and Police Chief Casey Casey O'Neill is forced to except Victoria's theory that someone is actually murdering certain citizens of the normally quite town.

Riggs vivid, verbal paintings of the beautiful surroundings in the backdrop of this story are second to none. Got to give this author her PROPS, she can be brilliant.

If you love to read, and you love to read a good detective/murder-mystery, then this book is for you. You'll find Jack in the Pulpit to be a pleasure to read.


Fall is a splendid season on Martha's Vineyard
A Review of Jack in the Pulpit
From Publishers Weekly

Fall is a splendid season on Martha's Vineyard, with spectacular views of land and sea in the ever-changing light. The sudden death of four people in one month, all parishioners at the same church, however, upsets the island's tranquility. In Riggs's absorbing fourth Vineyard mystery (after 2003's Cemetery Yew), Victoria Trumbull, the wise and sprightly nonagenarian island native, is caught in the middle of a jealous battle between the new minister and the retiring minister (both named Jack) at the community church. The ministers' wives are spreading gossip about the four deceased, all of

whom provided handsomely for the church. If Victoria's granddaughter, a fugitive from a vengeful and abusive husband, adds to her worries, Victoria can take solace in her developing friendship with the new, city-bred police chief. A complex, well-paced plot, involving a never-mentioned grandparent, an auto accident, a dead seagull and a basket of mushrooms, comes to a neat resolution. A sensitive observer of the scene, Riggs writes with warmth and humor about all-too-human characters with whom readers can readily identify.

- Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


West Tisbury's residents are dropping like flies
A Review of Jack in the Pulpit
by Jenny McLarin in Booklist

In this fourth installment in her Victoria Trumbull series, Riggs offers a kind of prequel that explains why Victoria's granddaughter, Elizabeth, first came to live with her 92-year-old grandmother, and how Victoria became a deputy for the West Tisbury police. While the town's old and new ministers—both named Jack—try to forge a positive relationship, West Tisbury's residents are dropping like flies. Four people die within a short time, and all appear to have eaten gifts of food. New police chief Casey O'Neill relies on Victoria, who knows the town and everyone

in it, to help her figure out what's going on. Meanwhile, Elizabeth is stalked by her psychotic ex-husband, and Victoria is feuding with the "Meals on Wheels" driver with whom she had a fender-bender. Readers who appreciate Riggs' incorporation of the flora and fauna of Martha's Vineyard into her stories will be pleased that this tale also features evocative descriptions of island plants and birds. This pleasant trip back in time will give Victoria's fans a better appreciation of the notable nonagenarian.

- Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved.


At 92, Victoria Trumbull's Energy
Remains the Secret to Her Success
A Review of Jack in the Pulpit by Helen Phillips
From The Vineyard Gazette

Ninety-two-year-old Victoria Trumbull reads to the "elderly" at the hospital; unapologetically crashes into the Meals on Wheels van; defends her granddaughter, Elizabeth, from an abusive husband; drinks beer at 10 a.m.; oversees the blossoming of a romance between her two male boarders; calmly dissects a seagull corpse; doesn't "envy anybody anything"; becomes an official police deputy, and figures out what mushroom quiche has to do with the September deaths of four members of a tightly knit Vineyard community.

Victoria's boundless energy makes Jack in the Pulpit, Cynthia Riggs's fourth Martha's Vineyard mystery, a page-turner. Because it's impossible to predict where the young-at-heart heroine is headed next, there is an irresistable temptation to follow close on her heels and find out.

It is difficult to tell whether Victoria is the sidekick to the new female police chief, Casey O'Neill, or vice versa. Either way, the caring-yet-feisty rapport between the two women is at the heart of the novel.

Ms. Riggs, a thirteenth-generation Islander, imbues Jack in the Pulpit with her vast knowledge of all life forms on the Vineyard, from the plants and flowers to the lively local characters. For off-Islanders, this book is an excellent way to get acquainted with the small-town lifestyle and natural environment of the Island. The author's detailed descriptions of the Vineyard's September flora may even sway a few summer residents to stay an extra month. For Islanders, the book will strike very close to home.

As Victoria and Chief O'Neill puzzle through the mystery, they face the charms and frustrations of living in a community where everyone is either a blood relative, a neighbor or both. Ms. Riggs manages to critique small-town living while simultaneously expressing a deep tenderness for it.

The mysterious deaths themselves hinge on the generosity of the Islanders. The novel grapples with the question of how a town steeped in tradition can cope with the arrival of newcomers, such as wash-ashore Chief O'Neill and the new Reverend Jack, both of whom have important community positions.

It also addresses the need to reconcile a simple, old-fashioned way of life with modern complexities. When is it time to put locks on the doors? When does Elizabeth's ex-husband, Lockwood, become a dangerous stalker rather than an accepted, albeit lovelorn, member of the community? When should home-cooked dishes left by friendly neighbors be tested for poison?

But Ms. Riggs's novel is more than an in-depth exploration of the darker side of Vineyard life. The crowning achievement of the book is her ability to create compassion for all the characters, including the villains. Her characters are rich and complex, an effect created by the many points of view she presents. The reader spends time looking at the situation from the perspective of such questionable figures as Lockwood and Reverend Jack.

We are inside the self-righteous Lockwood's head as he anxiously prowls around Victoria's house, searching for Elizabeth, whom he refers to as "the bitch."

We are with Reverend Jack when he carefully hides his copy of Hustler underneath a stack of Bible lessons. Later, we watch Lockwood muse over the nice things he'll do for Elizabeth when she comes back to him, such as baking her a quiche.

We watch Reverend Jack deliver food to Lockwood, on whom he's taken pity.

Ms. Riggs rescues her characters from occasional tendencies toward one-dimensionality by showing them in both generous and corrupt moments.

The last 15 pages of Jack in the Pulpit are packed with small revelations and a shocking climax. The mystery is satisfying in itself, but the most striking element of the conclusion is the compassion with which our heroine treats the murderer.

Ms. Riggs's writing style, like Victoria herself, is straightforward and clever. The tone is always tongue-in-cheek. The author mocks the mystery genre while delighting in it.

At the end, Victoria proudly claims, "I did a denouement, like Nero Wolfe." There's a lot to like about Jack in the Pulpit, from the Vineyard mood to the vivid cast of characters to the intricate plot, but Victoria Trumbull's sassiness is what makes the book great. By the end of the novel, one may be tempted—like Elizabeth, like Victoria's two boarders—to move in under Victoria's roof and be right there to see what scheme she'll cook up next.

- The Vineyard Gazette, June 25, 2004


...stopping neither to feed the cat nor turn on the evening alarms
A Review of The Cemetery Yew
by Thelma J. Straw in Mystery Reviews

The fact that the author has thirteen generations of Islanders behind her convinces you beyond any shadow of doubt that she knows her material from the get-go. Martha's Vineyard, that splendid triangular Atlantic island located south of Cape Cod, between the Elizabeth Islands and Nantucket, is a major character in The Cemetery Yew, as is the weather.

New to this widely-acclaimed series by Cynthia Riggs, I turned to Chapter 1 with eager anticipation. Needless to say, enchanted by the nonagenarian protagonist, Victoria Trumbull, I stayed with the book until THE END, stopping neither to feed the cat nor turn on the evening alarms!

Victoria is planting tulip bulbs on her husband's grave when she hears noises nearby. Walking with her stick, she wends her way among the gravestones and finds the daughter of the cemetery superintendent and a workman at an empty grave under a yew tree. Ordered to dig up a ten-year-old coffin and send it to Milwaukee, they've found only an empty grave. An off-island hearse is due the next day to pick up the coffin. But a major storm ties up the East Coast transportation and the hearse driver disappears off the ferry. Victoria may be 92, but she lets no grass grow under her feet. Not only does she cook supper for her divorced granddaughter, who has moved in with her, but she writes a weekly column for the local paper and sometimes rents rooms to paying guests.

Her neighbor's pushy cousin moves in, a noisy toucan in tow. The woman pretends she's undergoing chemotherapy, taking Taxol, a derivative of the poisonous yew. The illness is fake, but Victoria does not know this at the time and graciously serves the woman tea and gingersnaps.

Because Victoria knows all about the convoluted relationships of the townspeople, the new off-Islander police chief has appointed the elderly

woman her deputy, and when the case of the missing corpse and coffin heats up in the local town Victoria is right in the center of the search. She locates the coffin, but it disappears again and several people who gather around the coffin search are found brutally murdered.

As I noted earlier, the Island and its weather are major players in this story. Riggs' descriptions are poetic and beautifully written. 'A heavy ground fog had settled over the meadow, like grayish-white soup. From the cookroom window, Victoria watched the fog lap against the entry's stone steps. The pasture cedars floated out of the mist.'

The plot thickens. The DEA, the CIA, the Foreign Service, ties with Colombia, a contract killer, West Virginia sand, uncut gemstones worth ten million dollars, poisonous yerba mate, a hit list, false IDs, anagrams—all are pieces of the puzzle of the missing coffin.

Here and there the story is colored with charming humor. The cat 'headed for the door and waited for some house servant to let him out.'

Either by design or by happenstance, the author penned the last line of the book in such a way we already imagine a follow-up to this volume. 'I wonder if we'll ever meet again.' Yes, Cynthia Riggs, this is a marvelous segue. We liked that man!

In her mystery series of Martha's Vineyard Riggs more than holds her own in the growing circle of major writers who use this island as their setting—Philip Craig's books, including his story written with William Tapply, First Light, and the novels of Linda Fairstein, where she sets part of the story on the Island.

We concur with critics from Publishers Weekly and the ALA Booklist—here's to a long line of Victoria Trumbull books.

- Lady M's Mystery International T.J.'s Winner's Circle, October 2003


As satisfying as a steaming bowl of chowder on a cold New England evening
A Review of The Cemetery Yew
by Jenny McLarin in Booklist

Can a 92-year-old protagonist engage readers of all ages? Definitely, as proven in this third adventure featuring nonagenarian Victoria Trumbull. As the snow begins to fly in the quaint village of West Tisbury on Martha's Vineyard, Victoria welcomes a visitor to her cozy home. Dahlia Atherton, on the island to visit her cousin Howland, moves in with Victoria when Howland's house proves too dusty and drafty. Dahlia's arrival coincides with the exhumation of a coffin supposedly containing the remains of a suicide victim. After the coffin is found to contain only sandbags, many people connected to it either

disappear or are murdered. When Victoria's houseguest appears to have something to hide, the spunky sleuth puts her detective powers to work to uncover the whole story. Once again, Riggs introduces entertaining supporting characters, including town selectmen Denny Rhodes and Lucretia "Noodles" Woods. Her native's knowledge of Martha's Vineyard shines in the expert evocation of the picturesque community. As satisfying as a steaming bowl of chowder on a cold New England evening.

- Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved.


Victoria Trumbull takes on her most bizarre case yet
A Review of The Cemetery Yew
From Publishers Weekly

Victoria Trumbull, the astute, 92-year-old Vineyard native and deputy police officer, takes on her most bizarre case yet, in Riggs's third appealing Vineyard mystery (after 2002's The Cranefly Orchid Murders). An empty grave, a misplaced coffin and a missing hearse driver are the harbingers of a series of grotesque murders, whose victims turn out to share an odd South American connection involving smuggling and an exotic bird. The author lends ballast to an outlandish plot by lovingly depicting

ordinary island people (awkward teens, a friendly police chief, small-town officials with their rivalries and gossips) and events (notably the return of the local high school football team from the big game against Nantucket). The unfamiliar portrait of the Vineyard in winter is another plus. With patience and charm, the down-to-earth Victoria succeeds in drawing out confidences. In the end, even she is surprised.

- Copyright © 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. All rights reserved.


Victoria knows just about everything about everyone in town
Product description of The Cemetery Yew
by St. Martin's Minotaur

There's more than one reason the new West Tisbury police chief officially made 92-year old Victoria Trumbull her deputy. For one thing, Victoria knows just about everything about everyone in town, and a lot about the rest of the Martha's Vineyard year-round population as well. Not to mention their ancestors. Victoria may be afflicted with the usual aches and pains that descend on nonagenarians (she has a cutoff shoe to accommodate her bunion, and a stout stick to help her on her walks across the fields and in the woods). But she is as sharp and as sharpeyed as the proverbial tack. So it's not odd that when Victoria is the only one who notices something amiss among the gravestones of the West Tisbury cemetery, the chief listens.

Something is indeed amiss. Responding to a request by presumed relatives in the Midwest to disinter a coffin for reburying elsewhere, things go wrong from the start. The driver of the hearse coming to collect the coffin disappears during the Island ferry

trip in a rainstorm. Other deaths - some of them irrefutably murder, the others suspicious - follow. And when as a last measure the coffin is found, dug up and opened, it does not contain the expected body. Insult upon injury, the coffin itself disappears.

Meanwhile, the available for rent bedroom in Victoria's house has been taken over by a woman relative of one of their neighbors and her raucous toucan, a bird as spoiled as the most bratty millionaire's heir. Victoria is graceful about her unwanted boarders; but they do interfere with the column she writes for the local newspaper and with her efforts to discover whether the strange antics of the coffin are related to the murders.

Victoria is the most realistic and the most delightful nonagenarian in mystery fiction. Her years have not blunted her intelligence and her sharp wit. We're lucky that she's still around and seems to be set for a long time.

- Copyright © St. Martin's Minotaur. All rights reserved.


Victoria Trumbull continues to delight
A Review of The Cranefly Orchid Murders
From Publishers Weekly

Victoria Trumbull, a 92-year-old Martha's Vineyard native, deputy police officer and naturalist, continues to delight in this second outing (after 2001's Deadly Nightshade) from Vineyard native Riggs. Lonely recluse Phoebe Eldredge decides to sell 200 acres of beautiful, unspoiled land to a developer rather than leave it to her descendents, in particular her crass, rude granddaughter, whose arrival on the island triggers the well-paced action. Because Massachusetts has a law against destroying endangered plants, Victoria, an avid walker, goes in search of a rare plant, any rare plant, on Phoebe's property in order to forestall development, but first she stumbles on a decayed corpse, which proves tobe that of sleazy lawyer Montgomery Mausz. Victoria's new sidekick, an 11-year-old boy named

Robin, makes a worthy companion, leading her to unexpected island nooks. A stranger pinned under a storm-toppled tree in Victoria's driveway, an avaricious developer married to a Nevada showgirl, a recovering Vietnam veteran, earnest botanists, naive town officials, a clique of golfing doctors all are involved, but not all are what they seem. Amid dealings and double-dealings, the body count rises. The author's prodigious fund of natural lore, both plant and animal, complements her authentic portrait of the Vineyard's human community, complete with a chorus of locals on the porch of a West Tisbury landmark, Alley's general store. Bits of sly humor and wordplay add to the fun. This mystery unfolds as nicely as the Vineyard spring it so lovingly depicts.

- Copyright © 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. All rights reserved.


Plucky 92-year-old Victoria Trumbull is back on the case
A Review of The Cranefly Orchid Murders
by Jenny McLarin in Booklist

Plucky 92-year-old Victoria Trumbull is back on the case in this satisfying follow-up to Riggs' series premiere, Deadly Night shade. This time she is trailing both a killer and a rare orchid. Victoria is enjoying spring on Martha's Vineyard until she stumbles upon the decomposing body of attorney Montgomery "Mickey" Mausz. It soon becomes apparent that the murder has something to do with a bitter struggle over the valuable property of elderly Phoebe Eldredge. When Phoebe is tricked into selling the land to a greedy developer, leaders

of the conservation group enlist Victoria to find rare plants—namely, a Cranefly orchid—on the property that might block the developer's plans for a housing development. The suspense builds as a man is caught spying on Victoria's house, and she and her 11-year-old assistant are befriended by a mysterious character living in the woods. Readers who enjoyed the charming series debut will be delighted to get another dose of Victoria's sharp tongue.

- Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved.


©2017 by Cynthia Riggs