“Summer Merriweather slipped off her flip-flops, allowing the sand’s warmth to comfort the bottom of her feet like it had thousands of times before.”
I’m a sucker for stories about books and bookshops, and there’s something lovely about a good cosy mystery when you need some non-mentally-taxing reading. Alas, while not dreadful by any means, I wouldn’t really go so far as to call this a great example of the genre.
Summer has returned home for her mother’s funeral. Her life has been too full of drama of late, after a video goes viral of her freaking out while teaching a class – although to be fair, I’d also be freaking out if the neighbouring lab’s arachnid collection came wandering in, so the whole might-be-fired thing seems kind of OTT. Hmm.
Anyway, she now has more on her mind, after her very healthy mom suffers a fatal heart attack. When several threatening letters are discovered, however, everyone – apart from the obligatory doubting police – starts to wonder if it wasn’t natural causes after all.
All of the usual elements to a cosy mystery are here, really, with the exception of a budding romance – much to my relief, I should add. Mourning a parent is not the best headspace to have a character start down that path! But we have a murder, a good reason for Summer to be investigating, and a group of friends of all ages to help out.
So far so good, and yet… there’s just something about the way it’s all put together here that really didn’t grab me. The first chapters are quite downbeat and repetitive with Summer’s shock over the death and all of that kind of thing. Several elements throughout seem to serve very little purpose – the whole spiders thing, for instance, is so overplayed I was dreading a huge icky scene but I can reassure my fellow arachnophobes that there’s just one ‘thing I read in a book’ scene and otherwise I wasn’t too freaked out!
Far less forgivable, however, is the sheer obviousness of the whodunnit, and the obtuseness required from the characters to not have them stumble onto the right answer almost immediately – it’s almost hard work for them to dance around it so many times!
It’s not all bad. I liked the family dynamic, and the location is a nice mental vacation spot. Quite how a tiny bookstore deals with so many regular deliveries that need six people a time to sort them, though – hmm! There’s also a subthread which feels irritatingly ‘meta’, about a Shakespeare professor getting over her snobbishness about romance and cosy mysteries, which is perhaps driving a little too hard – we’re already reading the book, we’re not the ones needing convinced (much ;)).
So… can’t really find myself recommending this. I still sort of enjoyed the daft read, but really just too many flaws and irrelevant meanderings to make it one I’d look for a follow up from.
NetGalley eARC: 258 pages / 66 chapters
First published: 2020
Series: Beach Reads mystery book 1
Read from 5th-14th September 2020
My rating: 4/10