Alicia Bessette’s first Outer Banks Bookshop Mystery, Smile Beach Murder, brings readers to Cattail Island in North Carolina, where the sun shines and murder is in the air.
After losing her job, former reporter Callie Padget begrudgingly moves back to Cattail. Callie has a complicated relationship with the coastal community: While she loves the people and history of the island, her mother died after falling from the town’s famed lighthouse when Callie was just 12 years old. Everywhere she goes, she’s reminded of her mother and the life they might have built together.
Callie gets a job at the local bookstore, where she runs into Eva Meeks, the older sister of one of her school friends. Eva’s searching for books to help her with a treasure hunt and invites Callie to join in the fun. But the next day, Eva’s body is discovered at the base of the lighthouse. While local police believe she killed herself, Callie doesn’t, and she sets off to uncover a murderer on Cattail Island.
Bessette captures the charm of the Outer Banks with her vivid descriptions of laid-back island life. It’s easy to root for Callie, who’s resourceful and brave even when she finds herself staring down confessed killers and deadly sharks. And readers who have lost a loved one will relate to her journey to process the loss of her mother. Callie is still surprised by the depth of her grief, despite the time that’s passed, and her emotional development throughout the novel is made all the sweeter as she slowly embraces Cattail Island and all it has to offer. Readers will finish Smile Beach Murder cheering for Callie and eager for many more cases to come.