A debut novel from British TV writer Wassmer (More Than Just Coincidence, 2010) set in an English seacoast town where life would be perfect if it weren’t for the murders.
Now that Charlie, the son she’s raised without a husband, has left for Kent University in Canterbury, Pearl Nolan is restless. The Whitstable Pearl, the seafood restaurant she owns and operates, doesn’t come close to absorbing all her energy. So she returns to law enforcement—not as the police officer she was before Charlie arrived but as a private investigator. After sorting out Phillip Caffery’s missing dog and refusing Doug Stroud’s request to check up on Vincent Rowe, the fisherman Stroud has loaned money to to help reseed the shrinking oyster beds, she lands a doozy of a third case when she goes to Vinnie’s boat to warn him that Stroud is on the warpath and finds her longtime friend dead in the water, an anchor chain wrapped around his ankle. DCI Mike McGuire, recently transferred from the Met to the Canterbury CID, is far from convinced that Vinnie was murdered, but the death very shortly afterward of Stroud himself offers a powerful new argument. As McGuire and Pearl debate how to parse the evidence, Pearl can’t help but notice that the conveniently widowed McGuire, who’s still grieving the fiancee he lost a year ago, is a most attractive figure of a man. Even taken together, the two don’t add up to much of a sleuthing team, and readers looking for the pleasures of an old-school whodunit are likely to find this one slow to get started and rushed at the end.
Wassmer’s main contributions to the familiar village murder-cum-not-quite-romance formula are a strong sense of atmosphere—the town is much more vivid than its individual inhabitants—and a keen eye for the places where everyday frictions between perfectly nice people shade off into something altogether darker. First of a series.