Book review

By Rita Thiel  

Ocracoke Island has a lingering mystique which beckons devout visitors who, at the mention of Ocracoke in a book title, might be tempted to pick up said book in hopes of reading words that recall the familiar and beloved island.

Not so with “Murder at Ocracoke,” by Joe C. Ellis (2017).

Those wanting a book that includes accurate or attractive details of Ocracoke should find another book, but if it’s entertainment you want, this book may be for you.

Ellis has written a story of future Disneyesque development on Ocracoke that precipitates murder at a hardly recognizable Springer’s Point.

The amount of action that takes place on Ocracoke is negligible: The location is used only as a nod to add Ocracoke to the title. Characters range from amateur supernatural investigators, an unresponsive Hyde County sheriff’s department, “extremist preservationists” the Ocracoke Preservation Society (uh…the OPS would disagree), to an aggressive Native American environmental-activist shaman.


Take a breath. You’ll need it to keep track of the back-and-forth, ridiculously related action from the Outer Banks to mass casualties in West Virginia and Ohio.

Ellis includes small bits of myth, historical “fact,” sensationalism, and what appears to be his interests: the Mothman myth of W. Va. and Ohio and fracking.  Yes, fracking.  

“Murder at Ocracoke” takes you to the seedier side of fracking with no apparent meaningful or necessary detail to the story except as a possible attempt to justify why a Native American shaman might possibly be murdering people.

Reading each chapter, one can’t help but wonder, “What in the world can he throw in next?” 

Be prepared to take liberties with your intelligence as you follow the zigzagging story line replete with a hormone-ridden widow eager to get in the pants of the Dare County deputy. 

Hyde County sheriff’s officers couldn’t be bothered to investigate the murder of a British ambassador. So, here come the Dare County sheriff and his deputies. Aw, say it ain’t so, Joe!

A predictable on-again, off-again romance injects an unsuccessful attempt to add a bit of intimacy and sex into a loosely fit-together story line. 

Characters aren’t developed well enough nor do they seem worthy or interesting enough to invest time to care one way or the other about them. Too many silly, synchronistic events take place in situations that test credulity at every turn. More than enough dead bodies end up in the pages for no worthwhile reason.

Apparently, the author counts on the shock effect of violent actions to…well, I don’t know what. They just don’t fit.  

The ending has a, “Sure, why not?” climax that creates a quick and convenient end to the suffering.

Joe C. Ellis, a resident of Martin’s Ferry, Ohio, vacations on the Outer Banks and has written several books in his Outer Banks Murder Mystery series.

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