Smile Beach Murder (Outer Banks Bookshop Mystery)
1st in Series
Setting – North Carolina
Berkley (May 10, 2022)
Hardcover : 352 pages
ISBN-10 : 0593336887
ISBN-13 : 978-0593336885
Kindle ASIN : B09CD6DRY6
From author Alicia Bessette comes an all-new mystery series featuring Callie Padget, a former reporter turned bookshop clerk in the Outer Banks who is pulled into a deadly web of secrets when a mysterious fall at a lighthouse echoes a tragedy from her past.
When Callie is laid off from her reporting job, she returns to her hometown of Cattail Island and lands a gig at the local bookstore—the same one where she found comfort after her mother died.
In fact, the anniversary of her mother’s infamous death is approaching. Years ago, Teri Padget tumbled from the top of the lighthouse. As islanders are once again gossiping about the tragedy, devastating news strikes: the lighthouse has claimed another victim. Eva Meeks, of Meeks Hardware.
The police are calling it suicide, but Callie does not believe Eva jumped any more than she believes her mother did—especially because Callie knows that before her death, Eva had dug up a long-forgotten treasure hunt that could have put a target on Eva’s back.
In Callie’s search for answers, she enlists the help of some beloved books and several new friends, including the handsome local martial arts instructor, Toby Dodge. But when another death rocks Cattail Island, Callie must face her fears alone. As she earns enemies in pursuit of the truth, Callie knows she will either uncover the killer or become a victim herself.
Callie Padget tragically lost her mom years ago when she fell from the top of the local lighthouse so coming home to Cattail Island after being laid off from her job was not easy. Moving back into the loft above her uncle Hudson’s garage she takes a job at the bookstore where she found solace at all those years ago until she can find another newspaper position. She has reconnected with her old friend Eva Weeks. She and her sister are now running the family hardware store.
Eve is also the island’s foremost treasure hunt junkie and Blackbeard is rumored to have buried treasure on the island. In fact, she called Callie wanting to meet up to discuss the new clue she found for a new hunt. Sadly before they could meet Eva was found dead at the foot of the lighthouse eerily on almost the same date as Callie’s mother. The police have declared the death a suicide and Callie just can’t accept that. She doesn’t believe Eva jumped anymore than she ever believed her mother did. Eva was too excited about her new treasure hunt to take her own life.
Then another young woman is killed, and again police believe she took her own life and won’t even contemplate the deaths may be related. That just pushes Callie harder to prove them wrong.
Did Eva uncover something that should have stayed buried? Are all three deaths connected? Callie knows she could end up the killer’s next victim but she really needs to find the truth and to do that she must finish the treasure hunt her friend started.
I was surprisingly drawn to reading this book when my heart was telling me to pass it by. The book has a suicide theme but I decided to lean on my cozy mystery knowledge and trust that the tables would eventually turn to the real causes of death. So there were some hard passages for me to read but I am happy I followed my brain and not my heart this time.
Alicia Bessette has a very descriptive writing style. The best vacation our family ever had was our trip to Caswell Beach, North Carolina, and her words to me right back there. I could smell the ocean air, feel the ocean breezes and the sand and water between my toes. While we didn’t have a murder to solve in addition to our wonderful cottage on the ocean we visited several local shops and a bookstore that had a resident cat so this book brought back some wonderful memories that were nice to have.
I wouldn’t call the characters in this book quirky but they are really interesting. They all seem to either have a secret or have dealt with or are still dealing with something from their past.
Callie is in a tough place because finding another job in her field is going to be hard as the news business is changing. But she uses her skills to ferret out a killer when the police aren’t of the same mindset for most of the book. She also used the bookstore to her advantage and her and her mother’s love of Mary Higgins Clark – “Good old MHC never lets you down.” While My Pretty One Sleeps was Callie’s mother’s favorite book and Callie reads it again as she tries to solve the mysteries in this story.
Callie meets Toby Dodge while saving an Instagram star and their lives quickly mesh together as he teaches her some self-defense options. He already knows her well enough that he knows she is not going to stop trying to find the killer. He is really easy on the eyes and super friendly too so Callie doesn’t mind spending time with him one bit.
We also meet several other residents of Cattail Island and all are cleverly created and serve a purpose in the story. I enjoyed that the supporting characters had so much depth for the first book in the series.
Ms. Bessette has written a complex mystery with a lot of moving parts. She serves up some delightful twists and drops clues tactfully throughout the story. Callie is an active amateur sleuth who refuses to give up. I especially liked that completing Eva’s treasure hunt was part of her process. Even when she hit a bump in the road to solving it she was always thinking of how to get the answers she needed. I admire her perseverance. All of her digging led up to a very gritty reveal that had me almost off the edge of my seat.
The story does not end though with catching the killer. There is some unfinished business that needs to take place. I found the ending to be extremely heartwarming and completely satisfying.
Smile Beach Murder was a Perfect Escape and would be a perfect beach read for everyone this summer. A captivating mystery filled with intriguing characters set on a wonderful island in the Outer Banks. This series is off to a great start!
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About the Author
Before authoring the Outer Banks Bookshop mystery series, Alicia Bessette worked as a reporter in her home state of Massachusetts, where her writing won a first-place award from the New England Newspaper & Press Association. A pianist, published poet, and enthusiastic birdwatcher, she now loves living in coastal North Carolina with her husband, novelist Matthew Quick. Visit her online at aliciabessette.com, on Instagram, or on Facebook.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”