A seaside mystery with an appealing heroine, but one that needs more red herrings.


The Smallest of Waves

In Coy’s (A Table on Kilimanjaro, 2013, etc.) mystery novel, dead seals start washing up on the local beach soon after a young woman’s friend disappears.

Jaye Walker, 25, is on her second summer of managing a kayak and surf shop in Agave Beach, California, saving money for her next adventure. Due in part to a childhood experience of abandonment, Jaye’s philosophy is to keep moving and live her life without attachments. But that gets complicated after Gerald, an older homeless man who helped out at the shop, disappears, leaving Baby, his Chihuahua mix, behind. Jaye decides to look after the dog temporarily, but Josue Segura, an attractive 30-ish photographer who’s new in town, is also claiming her attention. The two hit it off—he teaches Jaye how to scuba dive, which she loves—but she wonders if he’s really just a photographer. Jaye then sees her dream of traveling recede further when she must use her own money to pay surf-shop wages after a burglary. Meanwhile, the town is troubled by dozens of dead seals and sea lions washing up in the cove; they appear shark-bitten and leave a terrible smell, which alarms visitors. Then Jaye is attacked by a strange man on the beach. With several mysteries swirling around her, Jaye must decide her next move. Coy uses her beachside setting well, contrasting Agave Beach’s innocent sand castles and clueless tourists with the mysterious ocean—so foreign with its dark depths, sharks, kelp forests, and sea caves. Jaye’s independence, hard work, and wit make her admirable. She and the other characters are well-drawn, with interesting back stories, although some points are repeated too often, such as Jaye’s commitment issues. But with only a handful of characters, Coy doesn’t offer enough suspects to make this a compelling mystery. The book is instead filled out with, for example, the minutiae of scuba diving. These details are well-described but unnecessary to advance the mystery plot.

A seaside mystery with an appealing heroine, but one that needs more red herrings.

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5147-8278-1

Page Count: 290

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2015

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Another success for the publishing phenom.


An abused boy fights back, escapes, then returns as an attorney to his beloved hometown, but just as he’s falling in love with a transplanted landscaper, a series of attacks from shadowy enemies jeopardizes their happiness.

“From the outside, the house in Lakeview Terrace looked perfect.” Which of course means that it wasn't. We're introduced to the horrifying Dr. Graham Bigelow, who beats his wife and, increasingly as the boy gets older, his son, Zane. On the night of Zane’s prom, a particularly savage attack puts him and his sister in the hospital, and his father blames Zane, landing him in jail. Then his sister stands up for him, enlisting the aid of their aunt, and everything changes, mainly due to Zane’s secret diaries. Nearly 20 years later, Zane leaves a successful career as a lawyer to return to Lakeview, where his aunt and sister live with their families, deciding to hang a shingle as a small-town lawyer. Then he meets Darby McCray, the landscaper who’s recently relocated and taken the town by storm, starting with the transformation of his family’s rental bungalows. The two are instantly intrigued by each other, but they move slowly into a relationship neither is looking for. Darby has a violent past of her own, so she is more than willing to take on the risk of antagonizing a boorish local family when she and Zane help an abused wife. Suddenly Zane and Darby face one attack after another, and even as they grow ever closer under the pressure, the dangers become more insidious. Roberts’ latest title feels a little long and the story is slightly cumbersome, but her greatest strength is in making the reader feel connected to her characters, so “unnecessary details” can also charm and engage.

Another success for the publishing phenom.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-20709-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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A romantic suspense that skillfully balances both elements.


A successful businesswoman hires a smooth-talking bounty hunter to find a lead on her sister’s murder.

Kate Gallagher was the only one available to identify her younger sister Chrissy’s body after she was found dead, having run away from home two years earlier. Since Chrissy succumbed to drugs and turned to sex work to survive, her murder isn't taken seriously by the local homicide department. Kate is filled with grief and regret at not having been there for her sister, and she’s determined to find her killer as a kind of penance. Jason Maddox is the charming man Kate almost hooked up with at a local bar. He also happens to be on the payroll of the most successful investigation company in Dallas. He’s all too eager to help Kate out and spend more time getting to know the blonde he danced with at the Sagebrush Saloon. At first, Kate and Jason vow to keep things professional until the case is solved; there’s obvious attraction that they’re willing to pursue at a later date. But the increasing sense of danger mixed with Kate and Jason’s close proximity proves to be too heady of a combination. The tension never lets up as the pair visit seedy bars and interrogate unsavory characters. With a steamy romance and undeniably hot chemistry, the main characters are well matched. They’re both driven, slightly stubborn, and enjoy the adrenaline rush of catching criminals. Martin (The Conspiracy, 2019, etc.) doesn’t skimp on graphic, violent details as Chrissy’s murder leads her couple to something much bigger: human trafficking. Though not for the faint of heart given its weighty material, this is an un-put-down-able page-turner that’s sure to satisfy fans of romance and thrillers alike.

A romantic suspense that skillfully balances both elements.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-335-00769-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Harlequin HQN

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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