In one more week it will be Easter, then before you know it, summer will be here. That means longer days, hopefully some lazy ones, with time to spend relaxing either by the pool, the lake or at a campground…basically anywhere you can sit and enjoy a little leisure time. While you’re at it, might I suggest you take a few books along? The perfect beach (or other leisure activity) you ask? How about SUNSET BEACH by Mary Kay Andrews. It’s a delightful mix of time in the Florida sun mixed with a little murder, a little angst between estranged father and daughter and possibly a budding romance. In other words, it’s a great escape. Here’s my review of the book for your consideration.
Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for providing me with an advance digital copy of SUNSET BEACH by Mary Kay Andrews. It is a well crafted cozy mystery that takes place in and around St, Petersburg, Florida. In this book, Drue the central character, has suffered one set-back after another, having been injured while kiteboarding on the east coast of Florida and then being fired from her job as a waitress at a local bar. She’s out of money and doesn’t really know what she’s going to do next.
Enter the father who abandoned her when she was little and ran off with another woman, leaving Drue to be raised by her mother. Now her mother has died of cancer and Drue is on her own, no real friends and full of resentment toward the man who has just showed up and offered her a job at his law firm on the west coast of Florida, in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area.
With no prospects and no money, Drue decides she has no other options other than to accept the job, working the phones trying to assess the good cases from those that have no future for her father who is a personal injury attorney. It’s not a job she loves, but it is one she can do and gives her some money to begin to rehabilitate the seaside cottage she inherited from her grandparents at Sunset Beach.
In the course of her work at the office, Drue encounter’s a woman whose case was taken by Drue’s father, hoping to settled a wrongful death of the woman’s daughter for millions of dollars. Instead, the initial investigation indicates the woman was working at the time of her death which made it a worker’s compensation case, capped at $150,000.00 by the state of Florida. That money is in trust for the woman’s daughter which means they are impoverished at the moment. From Drue’s point of view her father and his law firm are guilty at least of not digging hard enough and at worse participating in some sort of cover up in exchange for a bribe from the woman’s employer, a resort hotel on the beach.
Drue takes it on herself to investigate the woman’s death, even though she fears she will find evidence that her father, or someone else in the law firm, is guilty of taking a bribe to settle the case for the lesser amount. While she is engaged in this activity, Drue is also working to rehab the beach cottage she inherited, and in the process discovers all the files for a police case back in the ‘70’s that involved a woman who was missing and presumed dead. There is some indication Drue’s father may have been involved in this death, which contributes to her resentment toward him as she suspects he may have been involved with the woman prior to her disappearance.
The book uses alternating chapters to switch from present day to the 1970’s as clues and suspicious activity is revealed. The chapters are well marked, so it is clear for the reader from the beginning which mystery is being highlighted at what time. This interleaving of timelines adds to the suspense of the book which helps pull the reader through the book and maintain interest. In addition, Drue’s father has married her former childhood friend who Drue now thinks of as a “frenemy” and their interaction throughout the novel contributes to a story with multiple points of interest.
There is a lot to like about this book as it has good twists and turns, excellent plotting and believable characters. It is well written, and easy to read which makes it an ideal summer “beach” read for anyone who wants a little escape. I highly recommend it for anyone wanting to simply escape into an easy read.
As it happens, I read this book the week after we returned from a few days in St. Petersburg where we had gone to enjoy their thriving downtown historic area. The book tweaked my interest in the beach area, so now we have to plan a return trip to search for a bit of “old Florida” amid the high rises and fancy resorts. I’ll be sure and take a book along for my next trip. For now, I wish you Happy Reading.