Release Date: May 10, 2022
Series: Outer Banks Bookshop Mystery
Publisher: Penguin Group
Callie Padgett returns home to Cattail Island after being laid off from her job as a newspaper reporter and gets a job working at the local bookstore. Callie ends up investigating the death of an old acquaintance, Eva Meeks, who fell from the top of Cattail Lighthouse. The local police department thinks her death was a suicide, and although she hasn’t seen the woman in years, Callie is sure Eva wouldn’t have taken her own life. Eva had everything to live for, including her twelve-year-old daughter, her community causes, and her obsession to locate a pirate’s treasure. Callie relates to Eva’s situation because of a tragedy in her own past and is determined to find out the truth about the woman’s death.
Smile Beach Murder is the first in the new Outer Banks Bookstore Mystery series. I like the premise of a bookstore on a North Carolina island . However, Callie, the main character, doesn’t want to be on the island, much less working in the bookstore. The fun of having a cozy mystery set in a bookstore is to share the love of reading with characters in the book. Callie’s attitude of not really wanting to be there didn’t make her a pleasant character to spend time with and no joy of reading came through.
The positive part about the bookstore setting is there are several shoutouts to some great books and authors, like Agatha Christie and Mary Higgins Clark. Although Callie’s heart is in the right place looking into what really happened to Eva, I didn’t connect with her character. Callie has good instincts, but when asking questions about Eva’s death, Callie often does it in a pushy way that sets people on edge and it didn’t endear her to me, either. There is a dramatic confrontation with the killer at the end and I was surprised by who it was, but the motive was a bit of a letdown to me as was the final conclusion of the book.
On the positive side, I like that the book was broken into many short chapters which helps move the story along at a steady pace. Hopefully, Callie will feel more comfortable being back in her hometown and open up more to potential friends in future books. I also liked the victim’s daughter, Summer, and the talks Callie had with her. I think with the beach setting and the bookstore whose cat has lots of personality, there is a lot of potential to this series.