Andi is looking at the putrid body of retired botany professor Max Denman, the first death she has been called in on since joining the police force in Burgess Beach, Florida. She suspects that Denman, who friends say was sickly not long before he died, didn’t die of natural causes. Discovering that Denman, the night before, was one of the handful of museum volunteers who observed and protected sea turtles as the creatures laid eggs on the beach, she proceeds to interview the other members of the group. While all claim they didn’t know Denman prior to volunteering, some still seem shifty. Volunteer Mara Phillips, the shaky, alcoholic shop assistant now dating the museum’s sea turtle expert, ends up being connected to the Boston family that became the surprising beneficiary of Denman’s fortune. Scared that she’ll be charged with the crime, Mara conducts her own investigation and travels to Denman’s former university in Wisconsin. Andi continues her own detective work, which includes determining if a venture capital firm involved with Denman’s research might be behind the homicide. She also dodges calls from her married policeman lover back in Tampa, deals with her mother’s breast cancer surgery and becomes acquainted with an attractive new male colleague. Then another volunteer is slain, catapulting Andi and Mara into a dramatic showdown with the finally revealed killer. In this debut tale, novelist Sojka brings a wry eye to life in Florida. Her mystery has several good twists and turns, and some of the volunteers wrestle with rather amusing desperations, including having to battle the boredom of retirement. Andi has an enjoyable Columbo-like quality, asking matter-of-fact questions and then watching suspects squirm. While it’s a bit surprising that Mara rises to be a rather savvy sleuth, one hopes that she and Andi join forces in future adventures.
Promising launch of an appealing contemporary female detective series set in the Sunshine State.