Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Book Review: Smile Beach Murder by Alicia Bessette (Outer Banks Bookshop Mysteries #1)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters and setting
Cons: Pacing a little slow
The Bottom Line:
Second lighthouse death
Callie thinks this one’s murder
A vacation read

Murder at the Lighthouse

About this time every year, people start talking about beach reads – those light, fun books they plan to take on vacation.  But I maintain there is nothing better for a beach read than a book set at the beach.  Which means the timing for the release of Smile Beach Murder, the first in a new series from Alicia Bessette, is perfect.

Callie Padget has reluctantly moved back home to her native Cattail Island in the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  She insists it is just temporary until she can find another job as a reporter, but in the meantime, she’s landed a job in the island’s bookstore.  Callie hasn’t lived on the island since she left for college, and being home is stirring up mixed emotions for her, especially with the upcoming anniversary of her mother’s death.  Almost twenty-six years ago, her mother fell from the island’s lighthouse.

Then tragedy repeats itself.  Eva Meeks falls from the lighthouse.  While Callie was better friends with Eva’s sister, Callie and Eva were friends, and Callie doesn’t buy the official explanation of suicide, especially since Eva called Callie the night of her death excited about a clue in a treasure hunt.  Can Callie figure out what happened to Eva?  Will solving the treasure hunt provide a clue?

I know I talked about beach reads to open this review.  Typically, I picture comedic, light books when I think of beach reads.  This book does have a more somber note to it.  Between the impact the current murder has on some of the characters and the feelings it stirs in Callie, this isn’t a comedy.  That’s not to say that this book is dark and depressing, either.  It finds that balance in the gray between the two.

The island setting certainly helps.  Cattail Island is a vacation destination, and this book is set in June, so it’s the beginning of the tourist season.  I could easily see myself enjoying a week on the island.  Strictly between murders, of course.

Part of the appeal is the characters.  Callie leads a cast that is completely charming.  I enjoyed meeting the characters here, and I can only imagine how much more I will love them as I spend more time with them.

The plot did take on a bit of the relaxed pace of a resort as well.  Even with the treasure hunt, I felt like the plot could have been a little tighter.  However, things do come to a logical climax.

I know I’ve already talked about the setting, but I have to come back to it again.  It truly does come alive, with descriptions that make you feel like you are right there.  If you can’t get to the beach this summer, this book will be the next best thing.

If you are going on a summer vacation, Smile Beach Murder would be a great book to take along.  If you are just wishing you were going on vacation this summer, this book will make you feel like you’ve taken one.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.


  1. And Island in the Outer Banks sounds wonderful. What a fantastic setting for a cozy mystery.

  2. I had a difficult time getting into this book, probably because I was expecting that lighter tone and that first book syndrome where a lot of time is spent in introductions and settings. I am glad I didn't give up because it proved to be worth it.

  3. I totally agree with your review. It did start slow for me, and I almost stopped reading it. I’m so glad I kept reading. It turned out to be a great book, with really interesting characters. I’m glad to hear it will be a series!

  4. Definitely agree with your review. I enjoyed it but it was definitely a bit different than the light summer cozy I was expecting. I'm curious to see how this series develops.


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