Hard Tack Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of Hard Tack

Freelance journalist Cat Marsala is all gung-ho about her next assignment - a piece about moneyed people and how they live - until Cat discovers she'll be on water. Cat hates water and cannot swim.
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Bravely forcing her boat and water phobias aside, Cat boards 'Easy Girl', a 60-foot yacht owned by millionaire furniture manufacturer Will Honeywell and his wife, Belinda. After all, Lake Michigan is a far cry from the Atlantic Ocean.

Along for the Fourth of July holiday sojourn are the Honeywell's son, Bill and girlfriend Mary; Belinda's brother Dr. Greg Mandel and his wife, Twinkie, jewelry shop owner; Brad Falcon, Broadway star; Chuck Kroop, financier; Takuro Tsunami, engineer; Dr. Daniel Silverman, and Emery Langmar, seaman and gopher for the duration of the trip.

With this eclectic mix, Cat keenly observes their relationships, interactions and personalites. To Cat, the Honeywells are kind and gracious hosts, but it becomes clear that Chuck Kroop is a boorish, ill-mannered and ill-tempered person with an eye for the ladies, including Twinkie.

Cat also learns the ropes, literally, taking informal yet practical sailing lessons from her hosts and companions.

After an ugly, physical fight breaks out between Greg and Chuck, it is decided that Chuck be tranquilized and confined to quarters. That night, a terrible storm blows up. All on board not felled by Valium, seasickness, excess alcohol and various other duties, spend the night keeping 'Easy Girl' in working order.

In the dim, foggy morning, Belinda makes a shocking discovery: Chuck is dead; his throat slashed. Everyone agrees it is impossible for someone to have entered the dormitory where he was sleeping off the effects of the Valium without being seen. While Chuck was certainly not popular, Cat wonders which one of the guests had sufficient motive and opportunity to kill him. She simply cannot believe his death was a suicide, as some others are willing to think.

That morning, a dead calm strands 'Easy Girl' on the lake. With a body that is decomposing posing a problem, especially since the engine is failing to start and the radio has been trashed, Cat becomes aware that someone aboard must be the killer, and she is determined to figure it out before they finally reach land.

When night falls, the wind still refuses to help the situation, and the members of the party hunker down and try to keep their spirits up. Then Twinkie Mandel vanishes. Her distraught husband, Greg, desperately begs them to search the yacht and the surrounding waters with no success.

Cat comes to the conclusion that beneath her flirtatious and ditsy veneer, Twinkie was actually quite astute and observant, and her analytical mind led her to discover Chuck's killer and method of death. That discovery ultimately led the killer to silence her by most likely subduing her and dumping her overboard.

When Cat comes to the same awful conclusion Twinkie must have come to, the method employed by the murderer is revealed to be both cunning and ingenious, and involves Cat having to face her own fears of drowning as well.
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Chapter Analysis of Hard Tack

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Plot & Themes

Composition of Book descript. of violence and chases 10%Planning/preparing, gather info, debate puzzles/motives 70%Feelings, relationships, character bio/development 10%How society works & physical descript. (people, objects, places) 10% Tone of story    -   suspenseful (sophisticated fear) How difficult to spot villain?    -   Difficult, but some clues given Time/era of story:    -   1980's-1999 What % of story relates directly to the mystery, not the subplot?    -   80% Kind of investigator    -   skilled citizen investigator Kid or adult book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book Crime Thriller    -   Yes Murder Mystery (killer unknown)    -   Yes

Main Character

Gender    -   Female Profession/status:    -   journalist Age:    -   20's-30's


Water?    -   Yes Water:    -   pleasure/love boat

Writing Style

Accounts of torture and death?    -   moderately detailed references to deaths Amount of dialog    -   significantly more dialog than descript

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Barbara D'Amato Books Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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