Murder by the Sea
A By the Sea Mystery, Book #3
By Kathleen Bridge
Author Website: kathleenbridge(.)com
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie
When a murderer crashes a masquerade ball, it’s up to Liz to unmask the killer . . .
It’s been quite a year for novelist Liz Holt. She’s overcome a lot and is finally feeling at peace with her new life at her family’s hotel, the Indialantic by the Sea, on the beautiful barrier island of Melbourne Beach, Florida. She’s exactly where she needs to be to ring in the New Year at the Florida Writes Literary Masquerade Ball.
But when her ex-boyfriend surprises her at the ball, she can’t disguise her anger, and the two engage in a very public argument. Naturally, after her ex is found dead on the hotel grounds, shot through the heart, Liz tops the suspect list. With the help of family and friends, she needs to clear her name before the real killer waltzes away scot-free . . . (Goodreads)
What a great New Year’s story for any time of year! I enjoy the characters, particularly Betty, Aunt Amelia, and Liz. The setting in Florida sounds like a gorgeous place for a New Years’ Eve celebration, and I enjoyed reading about the Florida Writes Library Masquerade ball. The mystery sends Ryan, a PI and Liz’ boyfriend, to the Big Apple and back, with clues along the way in Kentucky and Connecticut, and is a real challenge!
Liz Holt returned to the Indialantic Hotel and Emporium after being in the Big Apple for ten years. Her career as an author began there, and she continues to write now that she is back home. The primary differences are that she lives in the former bathhouse, now a beautiful beach cabin, she has an adorable kitten, Bronte, and Great-Aunt Amelia is now running the Hotel. Liz is dating Ryan, who had been a firefighter for FDNY and now works as a part-time PI for Liz’s father, Fenton, an attorney.
We are greeted with the Masquerade Ball, where Liz is known as Jane Eyre, and Ryan is Jean Valjean. I enjoyed the descriptions of the costumes and those wearing them. When least expected, Liz thought she saw her ex-boyfriend’s literary agent, dressed as Salander from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Moments later, she is approached by a US Army officer carrying a rifle with a bayonet. It had to have been Paula she saw, as the Army officer is Travis, Liz’s ex-boyfriend from Manhattan. The best-selling, Pulitzer-prize winning author with charm, and a heavy drinking problem that broke out in anger. The night he knocked her down cost her the scar on her cheek and was the last straw to her Manhattan life.
Only Travis would be costumed as the protagonist of his own prize-winning WWII novel, Mickey McAvoy. Travis being at the Indialantic is as unusual – and welcome – as an alligator on the beach. Liz told him in no uncertain terms to leave. Travis demanded that she go on a publicity tour for the novel he loosely based on their failed relationship, Blood and Glass as a movie deal is on the line because of when she called 911 on him. She threatens to reveal what he stole from a deceased veteran at the VA Hospital, and he threatens to tell all that he really wrote her prize-winning first novel, since her drafts were on his laptop, and sue her for past royalties. It wasn’t their best moment, and it was recorded. As Liz walked away, she ran into Sally Beamon, a local TV newswoman, who was sloshed. She didn’t realize that Sally, who had tried many times to get the scoop about Liz and the famous Travis, had recorded their words. Or that it would come back to haunt her. Late the next day, during a strong thunderstorm, Travis’ body was found, murdered, only a short distance from where Liz had seen him the night before.
Thanks to Sally Beamon, the police were aware of the verbal spat between Liz and Travis, which placed Liz at the top of the suspect list. Charlotte, the agent typically assigned to homicides, couldn’t be on the case due to her relationship with Liz’s father. Someone they are not familiar with, Agent Derek Crowley, is on the case, and has no reason to believe Liz. Her fingerprints were found on the rifle Travis carried – even though they were far from the hammer. She only touched it when pushing it away from herself. Liz and her co-detectives Ryan and Betty attempt to find out what they could from whomever they could. They could identify at least four other suspects…but was Crowley looking at even one of them?
The characters are defined well through conversations and actions, and I particularly like Liz, Betty, and Amelia. I am so happy to see the seniors who are valuable and involved in the story, such as Betty, Pierre, and Amelia. They are delightful and brilliant; even Pierre, with recent health challenges, can contribute in a positive manner. I also like how Liz feels it is always an adventure to live with Aunt Amelia, and the memories Liz shares of growing up with her, Betty, and Pierre.
The story moves along quickly, and is hard to put down once started. It is a beautiful place of escape with a complex mystery involving layers of motives that were not obvious. Plot twists keep the suspects and motives changing, as is a threat Liz received. There were times I put the book down in an attempt to think through who the killer might be, and even though I arrived at the right conclusion, I simply could not come up with the motive. This is such an exciting mystery that I was sorry to see it end! I highly recommend this novel, and this series.