A woman moves into her late aunt’s Florida home but learns a killer may be lurking in the neighborhood in this murder mystery.
Dawn Andersen and her parents are understandably distraught over Aunt Amy’s murder in South Florida. But after the Ohio family heads to Amy’s cottage in Manatee Beach, 25-year-old Dawn thinks she’s found her new home. Her parents—who now own the house—reluctantly let her move in, especially because authorities have arrested the person they believe is Amy’s killer. Dawn quits her job in Columbus but isn’t even settled into her new home when she spots a hulking figure loitering in the vicinity. Later discovering that this person is her next-door neighbor does nothing to ease her anxiety. Unfortunately, it soon turns out the alleged murderer has an alibi, and police initially connect two other deaths with Amy’s, both before and after the homicide. As Dawn makes friends among Manatee Beach residents, as well as a potential enemy or two, she looks for answers in evidence as different as the “mysterious man” in her aunt’s life and a possible link between Amy and at least one of the other victims. Most disturbing of all, however, is the likelihood that the murderer is someone in the small Florida community. Moore (Murder at the Country Club, 2018, etc.) excels at character development. Dawn is a smashing protagonist who’s trusting but not naive and who doesn’t abide insolence, including that of the postal carrier who litters his discourse with sexist epithets, such as “girlie.” But the neighborhood comprises numerous well-rounded characters, making it all the more difficult for readers to identify the killer. A subplot involving someone in a (probable) romance with Dawn isn’t fully developed, although this hardly affects the solid mystery. Moore’s pithy writing ably couples the small-scale setting with an often moody environment. For example, tension rises in the final act, which unfolds during an impending—and then full-blown—storm, complete with a power failure and resultant darkness.
Robust characters populate a crafty and entertaining whodunit.
Pub Date: Nov. 14, 2019
Page count: 428pp
Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020
A newlywed discovers her mother-in-law has a dangerous secret agenda.
Victoria Verducci wasn’t looking for love when she traveled to Las Vegas for a five-week training program. She lives in San Diego, where she works at a top investment firm. At the start of the program, she meets the handsome and attentive Brad Reynolds, an employee of the firm’s office in North Florida. A widower, he is raising his 5-year-old son, Andy, with the help of his mother, Madeline. After a whirlwind courtship, the couple elopes in Vegas. Victoria transfers to the Florida office, moves to Brad’s hometown of Jacksonville, and quickly bonds with Andy. Her relationship with Madeline is another matter. Madeline, ever rigid, expects the family to follow her rules: dinner at 6:30 every night and no TV. She continually finds fault with Victoria and her parenting style. Uncomfortable with the tension, Victoria wants to find a new home with Brad and Andy, but warnings from a neighbor and unsettling discoveries about Madeline’s and Brad’s past lead her to wonder how far Madeline is willing to go to maintain control over her son and grandson. Moore’s (Murder at the Country Club, 2018, etc.) latest is a fast-paced, compulsively readable mystery with strong characters and well-drawn settings. Victoria is a sympathetic lead, and Madeline is a cunning and elusive antagonist—a woman whose icy perfection and strict adherence to a complex set of rules mask subtle attempts to undermine Victoria’s marriage and relationship with her new stepson. While the novel is set in sunny Florida, the family drama at the heart of the story is worthy of a gothic novel, and the Reynolds family home is an important part of the setting. Victoria is expecting an open and airy beach house; instead, she finds a dark, formal home with ornate furnishings. This home plays a key role in many of the story’s most suspenseful scenes, and Moore’s keenly observed descriptions (“With these furnishings, if you weren’t looking out the window, you would never guess you were at the beach”) add to the fun.
A sharply written, suspenseful domestic thriller.
Pub Date: Sept. 2, 2017
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Time Tunnel Media
Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2019
Spending the holidays with family can be murder in Moore’s (Murder at the Country Club, 2018, etc.) contemporary cozy mystery.
Sally Braddock has been a widow for six years, and she lives on a 17-acre estate that’s so high up in the mountains above Vail, Colorado, that there’s no cellphone service. Now in her late 50s, she keeps in shape by swimming daily in her outdoor pool, regardless of the weather. Her businessman husband left her more than $3 billion and three spoiled, grown children. All the 30-something kids claim poverty, despite their multimillion-dollar trust funds, due to extravagant purchases (daughter Gwen owns an armada of luxury boats), ill-advised investing (son Lance funds movies for his actress/centerfold wife, Yvette), or snorting cocaine and gambling (favorite child Stephen is just out of rehab). Encouraged by their spouses, the siblings all ask Sally for more money during their annual Christmas visit. Upset, she screams that she plans to give 95 percent of her money to a charitable foundation. Her only true friend seems to be her devoted live-in housekeeper, Helga. After a winter storm knocks out the phone lines and internet service and blocks the road, one of the Braddocks is murdered—but was the deceased the intended victim? The next night brings another attack as well as news that someone has gone missing. Moore offers several twists and red herrings over the course of the novel, and she populates the well-paced mystery with a slew of imperfect characters. There are a few bits of characterization that readers may find difficult to believe, such as Gwen’s paying $50,000 for a purple purse. However, Moore’s depiction of the shadowy Helga is reminiscent of that of Daphne du Maurier’s Mrs. Danvers in the classic novel Rebecca. The book’s swimming and skiing scenes, which turn out to be crucial to the plot, benefit from the fact that the author is a former sportswriter: “The next run they tackled wasn’t as long, but it had a lot of challenging moguls. Gwen slowed down a bit, trying to figure out better ways to maneuver over the undulating hills.”
An often clever mystery about a dysfunctional family going downhill.
Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2016
Page count: 282pp
Review Posted Online: Jan. 2, 2019
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