by Kathleen Costa
& Maggie Blackburn
This week we have a review of the second book in Maggie Blackburn’s Beach Reads Murder series, Once Upon a Seaside Murder. We also have a fun guest post by Maggie about Christmas cozies. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of the book and a link to purchase it from Amazon.
Once Upon a Seaside Murder: A Beach Reads Murder by Maggie Blackburn
Review by Kathleen Costa
A Beach. A Bookshop. A Bit of Murder.
Summer Merriweather is a professor of Shakespearean literature at a Virginia university on sabbatical. Six months ago, she was in England researching details for a book she hoped to publish, but she received tragic news that would redirect her life forever. Her mother, Hildy, passed away from a suspected heart attack, and Summer inherited not only her Brigid’s Island bookshop, Beach Reads, but an African gray parrot, Mr. Darcy, as well. She hoped for a quick sale and return to the world of academia, but the discovery of a threatening note brought into question whether her mother’s death was natural causes or murder. The police saw no compelling evidence to investigate, but her niggling feelings were hard to dismiss. Summer did well getting in and out of trouble and finding the killer and learned her remaining family and her mother’s good friends were women she couldn’t live without, not to mention the shocking revelation she has half-siblings and a surprising box of photos and letters between her mother and her previously unknown father. She decides to take advantage of her sabbatical and stay in North Carolina…her home, a place where she could still sense her mother’s presence.
Once Upon a Seaside Murder Earns Mystery Boxes…Engaging & Clever!
It’s the first Christmas since her mother passed away, and Summer Merriweather wonders how she will make it through. Her mother loved Christmas and didn’t believe the secular manner in which many celebrate contradicted her pagan values. However, it’ll still be different. While searching for a banner needed for the bookshop’s upcoming cozy mystery author event, a box with an album of old clippings was found. As a “woman who could keep secrets,” no one knows the reason why Summer’s mother kept these articles about an unsolved murder from the late 80s, except for the connection to Summer’s newly revealed father, Omar Bellamy, and his family since the cold case victim worked for the Bellamy family. The news clippings offer some basic insights into the incident, but after thirty years it’s remained unsolved. Summer is surprised to learn one of the mystery writers, Mimi Sinclair, invited to attend her bookshop event, wrote a book, Mermaid Point Murder, detailing the crime her mother had found of interest. The book may offer more insights, possibly too much, since Mimi has received a threatening note warning her not to attend the event. Someone just might not want the cold case revisited.
Brilliant! Maggie Blackburn has followed up her first book in the Beach Reads Mystery series, Little Bookshop of Murder, with another engaging story focusing on a local cold case, my favorite element, and made dangerous due to an author’s revealing new book. We find Summer Merriweather still dealing with the death of her mother, Hildy, while making the effort to keep her mother’s pride and joy, the Beach Reads bookshop, afloat. The cozy mystery event brings in welcomed customers, but the one invited author who wrote a book on the local unsolved murder has fans lining up. The story is loaded with drama incorporating familial connections and long kept secrets in murder, threats, vandalism, robbery, kidnapping, and a plethora of “ghosts in the closet”— the only crime not showing up is tax evasion. I loved it…it all worked! The original investigation was Chief of Police Ben Singer’s first murder as a young cop and with obvious rookie blunders and an international connection he made no arrest. Summer doesn’t have any confidence in a collaboration with the police for interesting personal reasons and circumstances have forced Summer and her family and friends to rely on their amateur efforts which often stirs up more trouble. The story is quite compelling, a bit complex with various characters and constraints placed to “not get the cops involved,” challenging my inner detective as I couldn’t put it down. I had an inkling about a possible motive for the cold case murder and subsequent kidnapping, but the “Oh, my!” conclusion got me good. Maggie’s writing style is very entertaining with vivid description of the setting, characters, and the third-person narrative. Life enters, too, with Summer’s serious spider phobia, the antics of a masked streaker, confronting the past, navigating the present, and designing a future. A great beach, backyard, or comfy chair read!
Bonus! You don’t have to be a vegan to enjoy these easy-to-follow recipes: Hildy’s Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies, Vegan Chocolate Peppermint Cupcakes, and Vegan Pumpkin Bread!
Be a Big Maggie Blackburn Fan!
Maggie Blackburn is the pen name of Molly Cox Bryan writing “Cozies with an Edge [and] Romance with a Slow, Sweet Burn.”
Five Reasons the Christmas Cozy Rocks
By Maggie Blackburn
After writing four Christmas-themed cozy mysteries, Merry Scary Victorian Christmas, A Crafty Christmas, Christmas Cow Bells, and as Maggie Blackburn, Once Upon A Seaside Murder, you’d think I’d have had my fill of them. Instead, I adore reading them and look forward to writing more. Reading at least one, if not more, cozy mystery has much a part of my seasonal rituals as decorating the Christmas tree, baking pumpkin bread, and watching Elf. What is it about a cozy mystery that lends itself so well to the canon of Christmas stories?
1. A good Christmas cozy oozes charm. And that’s what we want around the Holidays. Whether we’re celebrating Christmas, Kwanzaa, or Hanukkah, cozy mystery readers long for the charm of small towns and quirky characters. The Holidays are a perfect opportunity for writers to oblige.
2. Tragedy, such as murder, striking around the Holidays always seems more tragic. The sense of loss heightens. and no matter how “cozy” a mystery is, let’s face it, murder is murder, and the loss is searing. Readers want to feel the feels, even if sad.
3. The mixing of these two things, the charm and the loss, makes for good reading. It pulls the reader into an emotive story.
4. At a time when so many of us are stressed, like we are during the holiday season, the cozy mystery gives us an escape.
5. Cozy mystery writers love the melding of the tragic and the festive. So much of the work is done for us when it comes to the holidays as readers bring along their own feelings already about this time of year.
If you’ve not tried reading a Christmas cozy, maybe this year you can dip into them. Fair warning: they are like delicious homemade Christmas candy. The more you read, the more you want. To get you started, here’s a few that are on my TBR pile right now and, because I’ve read many other books by these writers, I know I’m in for a treat.
• Have a Holly, Haunted Christmas (Kitchen Witch Mysteries) by Lynn Cahoon.
• Murder at an Irish Christmas (An Irish Village Mystery) Book 6 By Carlene O’Connor
• The Twelve Jays of Christmas A Meg Langslow Mystery (Meg Langslow Mysteries Book 30) by Donna Andrews
• Murder on a Midnight Clear (1920s High Society Lady Detective Mystery Book 6) By Sara Rosett
• It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Murder (A Catering Hall Mystery Book 3) by Maria DiRico
To enter to win a copy of Once Upon a Seaside Murder, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, with the subject line “seaside,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen November 13, 2021. Only US entries and you must be at least 18 to enter. If entering via email please include your mailing address in case you win. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. Also listen to our new mystery podcast where mystery short stories and first chapters are read by actors! They are also available on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, and Spotify. A new episode goes up next week!
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