Sea-born Women

BJ Mountford

John F. Blair, Publisher
$16.95 paperback
5 ½ x 8 ½  
284 pages
Published in 2002

On North Carolina's Outer Banks, there is a legend about Sea-born Woman, whose timely birth saved her Irish emigrant ship from being destroyed by pirates nearly 300 years ago. The ghost of the Sea-born Woman is said to give aid to sailors around Portsmouth Island even today.

Roberta "Bert" Lenehan is a latter-day sea-born woman who comes to the island as a National Park Service volunteer. Bert is between jobs and lovers, and she believes that a three-month stint as caretaker of Portsmouth village—a remote, pristine, picturesque ghost town—is what she needs to soothe her soul.

She soon learns differently. One of the previous caretakers died under mysterious circumstances, and another woman turns up dead on the island shortly after arrival. From park ranger Hunter O'Hagan, she hears rumors of artifact hunters digging illegally on Portsmouth and learns the story of Hunter's distant ancestor Jerushia Spriggs O'Hagan, the original Sea-born Woman.

Who is the killer stalking the island? And what bearing do a murdered pirate and centuries-old legend have on the crimes? Those are the questions Bert is pressured to answer as a hurricane bears down on the island and she finds herself the target of a killer.


“Filled with the tang of salt air and the sparkle of sunlight on the waves, BJ Mountford’s first mystery has captured the lonely beauty of North Carolina’s Outer Banks . . . and the menace that lies in wait for the unwary. Sea-born Women is a terrific debut!” —Margaret Maron, award-winning author of Bootlegger’s Daughter and Shooting at Loons
“If you wed a Nevada Barr mystery to an old-fashioned ghost tale, you might come up with something like BJ Mountford’s first novel.” —Winston-Salem Journal
“Mountford’s descriptions . . . may have readers longing to pack their bags (don’t forget the bug spray) for the Outer Banks.” —Orlando Sentinel
“This is a very atmospheric novel that captures the feel and the smell of the Carolina coast . . . Bert is an interesting protagonist, a fifty-something woman with a lot of guts.” —Nicki Leone, NPR commentator and president of the North Carolina Writers’ Network
“After restless Roberta (aka Bert) Lenehan comes to Portsmouth Island, N.C., to volunteer for the National Parks Service, she finds the body of a woman in the island's marsh; a previous park caretaker had met a different mysterious end. In B.J. Mountford's Sea-born Women, Bert tries to uncover the truth—Does the island hide a deadly treasure-hunter? Is a long-dead pirate guarding his grave? How does the legend of the Sea-born Woman relate to the crimes?—as bad weather threatens and romance with a younger man blossoms.” —Publishers Weekly