One potential disadvantage of a long-running mystery novel series is that the writer and the readers who’ve been following it from the beginning might overlook the fact that other potential fans are just now discovering it.
These new readers could feel a little lost, if they can’t pick up on the book’s references to past adventures and characters from the prior novels.
If the writer is adept enough, however, someone who didn’t start with the first book will nonetheless be able to learn enough along the way to enjoy the novel they’re now reading. Some of them will then go back and buy the prior books in the series, not only to see what they missed, but to better appreciate what they already read.
Carl Hiaasen, the popular Miami Herald columnist and comic mystery writer, has this particular talent. After starting near the middle of his Florida series, I’ve now gone back and read the rest of his novels from the beginning, while also keeping up with his newest offerings.
With Final Fore, her fifth and allegedly final book in the Cassie Burdette series, Roberta Isleib shows that she’s also fully capable of meeting new readers’ expectations, while giving her original fans plenty to remember and incorporate from the first four novels into the new story.
For these fans and her new ones, Isleib shows that she remains interested in how Burdette, her friends, and her fractious family slowly learn to recover from their past.
And after a short detour caused by a panic attack following a qualifying round for the U.S. Women’s Open, Burdette begins to show signs that her improving maturity pays her significant dividends, both on and off the course.
Naturally, however, the untimely demise of another competitor adds a few complications to Burdette’s personal growth saga.
The story this time is centered at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, scene of the Open and, for Burdette and another LPGA player, a Mount Holyoke alum, their dorm-based home for the competition. One irony about the location is that so many new LPGA players now skip college and go directly onto the tour, accompanied by their parents, coaches, and other assorted hangers-on.
Compared to some of these Morgan Pressel-Michele Wie types, Cassie feels like an old veteran at not quite thirty. The fact that these teenagers also routinely bomb the ball past her only adds to Cassie’s concern about her chances in the Open.
Her roommate’s caddie is a familiar reassuring face, however, dating back to their time together as undergraduates at the University of Florida. In fact, one of the minor sidebars for this novel compares this upscale, sheltered private school and what it’s like for students at state-supported mega-colleges.
When Cassie begins to receive coded e-mail messages that not only convey a keen familiarity with the Rules of Golf, but also a deeply threatening creepiness, Cassie seeks help from her usual sources. Only this time, family emergencies and other problems keep her old caddie/buddy Laura and others from coming to the rescue right away.
More than ever before, Cassie is going to have to find other ways to deal with the deadly risk, while also trying to find out why a promising young golfer died so soon after talking to her.
Meanwhile, there’s the relatively straightforward challenge of making the cut in her first-ever major tournament.
As in the prior novels in the series, Isleib draws upon her experience as a clinical psychologist in coming up with an appropriate resolution, while also imparting her professional insight into the reasons behind the threats to Cassie and the others. The finale gives us hope for Cassie’s fictional future, both as a golfer and as an ever-maturing young woman.
Is it any wonder that these books are such fun to read?
Review Date: February 25, 2006