From prolific novelist Peggy Darty comes WHEN THE SANDPIPER CALLS, a nice, down-South whodunit spiced up with a little romance and murder.
Christy Castleman is the local "mystery lady" of Summer Breeze, a town on the Florida Panhandle. Her first mystery novel is a success, and now Christy faces a looming deadline for her second, which keeps her at her computer at all hours. Then she discovers an antique green bottle on the beach with a note: "Call the police. Someone is trying to kill me." Is this a joke? Or is something more sinister going on in Summer Breeze? And what's happened to aggressive realtor Marty McAllister, who has suddenly disappeared from the town? A real murder mystery is brewing right in Summer Breeze, and Christy is in the thick of it.
Darty gives Christy a loving extended family, ranging from her benevolent pastor father to a kid brother who is off in Australia trying to "find himself." One of the most enjoyable characters is Jack, a fisherman and at one time her future father-in-law, with whom Christy maintains a delightful relationship. Christy's almost-too-good-to-be-believed Granny provides respite in the form of country cooking, deep faith, sage advice, and her own wisdom about the murder. Her Granny is hoping Christy will find romance, and it isn't long before Christy meets the handsome war hero Major Dan Brockman, who seems intent on sweeping her off her feet. However, Christy's heart is still aching from a tragic love affair in the past, and she's unsure if she's ready for another man in her life.
This is an enjoyable story that won't demand much from the reader. Darty gives Christy some appealing quirks, such as a penchant for shredding rejection letters and anything else she wants to forget. She loses things, enjoys wearing too-high heels, and sometimes prefers her fictional world to her real world. Christy is also patriotic to the point that "she got goose bumps just hearing the national anthem, and she was, indeed, proud to be an American." A little over the top, but there it is.
When a homeless man and then another resident who had protested the realtor's aggressive development on his island are arrested, Christy worries that the real murderer is still on the loose. A further development in the case comes when a jewelry heist in New York back in the 1980s is tied into the murder.
Can Christy discover who is responsible before it's too late? Darty does a good job concealing the true perpetrator until the closing pages. However, there are a few trouble spots. Occasionally, the dialogue can become a little stilted, and often Darty offers too much information, which can slow down the pacing. (One example: "In her office, she turned everything off, then disconnected the surge protector from the wall. She was taking no chances. While she had the latest and best devices to protect her computer, a sudden storm could wreak havoc.") Occasionally, she tells instead of shows ("He was very open and easy in conversation").
The Sassy Snowbirds, a fun group of "red hat" women over 50, are never really fully developed, but add color and a bit of help with clues in some of the scenes. For those who like their mysteries with a little faith and some light romance, this one should prove entertaining.
Reviewed by Cindy Crosby on November 13, 2011
When the Sandpiper Calls: A Cozy Mystery, Book 1