Death by Beach Read is the 9th instalment in the Lighthouse Library Mystery series, but as a total newbie to the series, I had no problem diving right in. Lucy, a librarian, has just purchased a historic home with her fiance, Connor, the town mayor. One night, Lucy and Connor come home to find a man strangled to death in their kitchen.
The victim, Jimmy, turns out to be the estranged twin of the Ralph, man who’d sold Lucy and Connor the house, and his death soon causes old stories and rumours to resurface. The house is reportedly haunted by the elderly patriarch. His ghost is said to have scared away Ralph and Jimmy’s younger sister Jo decades ago, when she was a teenager. The experience traumatized her so much she became a recluse, and never set foot in that house again. Along with the house’s complicated family history, Lucy has to deal with a woman claiming to be the victim’s widow, and the town mean girl, who hates Lucy and seems intent on closing the library down.
I was drawn in pretty much right from the start. The mystery is a lovely cozy, not a very gripping page-turner, but a low-key comfort read with cookies and hot cocoa. The story of Ralph, Jimmy, and especially Jo, was very compelling, and like Lucy, I sympathized with Jo for having the trauma of a teenage experience have such large and long-lasting effects on her life.
Another major standout for me was Charles the cat. He saves Lucy’s life at least two times that I can remember, and possibly many more times throughout the series. He’s a darling side character, with his own personality, and his own responses to the various other characters. I also love how he and Lucy work together, and how much Lucy clearly cares for him as a valued member of her family.
The ghost story elements were fortunately not at all scary. Similar to ghosts in Nancy Drew mysteries, it’s pretty clear from the start that there are non-supernatural reasons behind the ‘hauntings.’ There was a plot thread involving one of the suspects that I think could have used a bit of a clearer resolution — that suspect just disappeared from the story, and we never quite understood why they acted as they did.
That being said, the overall ending was satisfying. The big reveal took me by surprise — I didn’t guess the villain at all, nor their motivation. And I liked how things turned out for Ralph and Jo by the end.
Thank you to Crooked Lane Books for an e-galley of this book in exchange for an honest review.