Smile Beach Murder
reviewed by Pam Guynn
Alicia Bessette’s Smile Beach Murder combines an island setting with a death, a bookshop, a lighthouse, a treasure hunt, and a mystery. What could be more exciting? This first book in the Outer Banks Bookshop Mystery series captured my attention immediately and kept me engaged throughout.
Laid off from her reporter job, Callie Padget returns home to her home on fictional Cattail Island in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. She gets a part-time job at the local independent bookstore. As she makes contact with old friends and neighbors as well as some new ones, she searches for answers when there is a tragic death. However, investigations don’t go smoothly. She seems to upset everyone from the police to the local newspaper staff to the richest family on the island to the family of the deceased. Will Callie find the answers she’s looking for?
Callie is a likeable and relatable character that is tenacious in her pursuit of the truth. Many of the other characters had agendas that are revealed through their actions and inactions. Overall, the characterization is excellent with a protagonist that comes alive. Her will to find the truth generates a motivation that stirs the pot and results in a good conflict. I like the cast of characters for this book as each character had a very different perspective and distinct personalities. Tin Man, the bookstore cat with his own social media following, is a great addition to the cast of characters.
The descriptive narrative transported me to the coast of North Carolina. The story moved at a good pace that kept me reading. I thoroughly enjoyed the author and book references included throughout the novel. The author does a great job of balancing the shocking and tense aspects of the novel against the bookstore and community events. The well-plotted and beautifully executed story gradually builds momentum until it reaches the astonishing conclusion. There are plenty of red herrings in this story as well as some humor. Will you guess what happened and solve the puzzles? Other themes weaved into the novel include grief, friendship, secrets, and family. While I’ve seen this categorized as a cozy mystery, it has some topics and some action that is a little darker than many in the genre.
Overall, this story is a well-written and engaging novel with humor, suspense, some action, and the possibility of romance. If you’re a fan of the beach, puzzles, treasure hunts, bookstores, cats, and sleuth mysteries, then I recommend that you check out this one. It’s a good start to a series and I am looking forward to finding out what happens next on Cattail Island.
Berkley Publishing Group and Alicia Bessette provided a complimentary digital ARC of this novel via NetGalley. This is my honest review. Opinions are mine alone and are not biased in any way. Publication date is currently set for May 10, 2022.