A Coastal Corpse is the first in a new series from Rebecca Douglass, whom you know well by now, I hope! I adored the Pismawallops PTA cosy mysteries (Death by Ice Cream etc), and this looks set to be another winner. Despite having been involved in the development of this book, I went and bought my own copy to read the final version!
A Coastal Corpse
A Seffi Wardwell Mystery
by Rebecca M Douglass
Just what the doctor fresh salt air, a garden to tend… and a fresh corpse behind the dahlias?
Retired science teacher Seffi Wardwell has moved to coastal Maine looking for peace, fresh air, and an accepting community. So far, she’s enjoying the sea air.
When a corpse turns up in Seffi’s flower garden, she can’t help asking questions about the victim and his death. Police officer Miah Cox doesn’t want her assistance, but Seffi’s curiosity is what made her a scientist.
The more she learns about the dead man’s background, the more she wants to know. Estranged from his wealthy family, and a village pariah for something that happened years before, the dead man had plenty of enemies. At least one wanted to make him disappear forever, and they’re all eager to see this case wrapped up and forget about him.
The way Seffi sees it, somebody has to care about him, and as a fellow outsider, she’s it. But all of her poking around is stirring up trouble in the village. It’s up to Seffi and Miah to figure out whodunit before they strike again, and before the locals decide the handiest scapegoat is Seffi herself. [goodreads]
The author switches her focus from the Pacific North West coast to Maine to begin her new series, and a very lovely place it is too. Popular with several cosy authors, but they all love the scenery, the isolation and the propensity for slightly weird locals – or so I think! Seffi is an outsider, and as the librarian says, just because you’ve lived somewhere for fourteen years, don’t think you belong yet! The librarian is one of the friends Seffi develops – and she is sorely in need of them.
I like the way the author lets us get to know Seffi little by little. There’s a lot of baggage she’s carrying around, but only little bits come out at this stage — and that’s all a reader needs to get to know her, empathise with her, and egg her on to solve the crime. The interesting thing was that when I first read it, I was a fit 70-year-old who was not suffering from the after effects of anything in particular, and I found Seffi’s weakness and ‘old lady-ness’ hard to cope with. A year later, I have all sorts of things that make me stagger around the place, welcoming people’s aid. How quickly things can change!
The story lives up to all Rebecca Douglass’s customary deep and intricate plotting. The clues are all there, but I challenge you to notice them. Douglass has assembled an extraordinary diverse set of characters, yet they gel well, even when in dispute with each other. I’m looking forward to more investigations from Seffi Wardwell, and her friends (and neighbours!).