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On the Rocks is the first volume of the Dana Cohen mystery series, released last November. The main character, a strong and beautiful female police detective in her 40’s, decides to retire from the NYPD and go back to Long Island to manage a family property and a quiet life. She also wants to recover from her divorce, trying to forget at any cost how she still finds her ex-husband Pete Fitzgerald incredibly attractive, even if he can’t be faithful. Of course nothing goes as planned: Dana finds a dead body in her family vineyard, starts to investigate the crime on her own, and has to face evidence that points her ex as the assassin. If we add her sick father in a nursing home, a suspicious bartender and Dana’s taste for extra doses of scotch, we have the main ingredients for this page turner book, the first from Rebecca Marks, an author raised in Long Island, who now lives in Upstate New York.
Marks practiced law and worked as a technical writer in Boston for a long time. She was married to a policeman for many years, so she knows the world of detectives from the inside out. With her husband Frank, a policeman who later became a glassblower, she raised six kids, performed in many choral groups, and trained and showed their German Shepherds and Belgian Tervuren dogs. After Frank passed away, she moved back to her hometown of New York and began writing fiction in earnest. She studies at the Sarah Lawrence College Writing Institute, still sings, and also plays the harp. The other volumes of the Dana Cohen Mysteries are already in production to be released in the near future.
Marks is a prolific author with clear and captivating prose. One of the best qualities of On The Rocks is the way she builds Dana’s character: instead of the perfect example of virtue and justice, Dana is a human being who alternates days of superhero and moments of shame. She can’t resist her ex-husband’s appeal and always regrets it after they get together, drowning bad feelings a little too often on doses of scotch on the rocks. On the other hand, she is strong and resilient while dealing with her father’s sickness, and the troubles with the family vineyard. The setting in the Long Island wine country is nicely done: the reader can smell the sea and anticipate the taste of nice wine, just by imagining fields of grapes maturing under the sun.