Terrie Farley Moran strikes just the right note with her debut mystery, Well Read, Then Dead. Set in Fort Myers Beach, Florida, the author evokes all the history, beauty and charm of southwest Florida with her knowledge of the area, her research, and her use of local color. The tourist area with its secrets and past comes alive on her pages.
When best friends Sassy Cabot and Bridget "Bridgy" Mayfield left Connecticut behind, they moved to Florida, where they combined their dreams, opening a bookstore and cafe, Read 'Em and Eat. The customers can enjoy meals with book-related names, browse the bookstore, and participate in a book club or two. The regular book group members, though, are locals such as Augusta Maddox, a woman with a large personality and voice, and her shy cousin, Delia Batson. And, all of Miss Augusta's friends turn to Sassy when Delia is found dead, murdered in her own house. Maybe the new lieutenant with the sheriff's department is smart as well as handsome, but Miss Augusta demands some answers, and wants help from Sassy. Where's Miss Delia's missing locket? Where's her missing cat? And, did someone kill Delia because they thought there was treasure near the island she owned in the Ten Thousand Islands? A few too many people think Sassy is snooping, and it isn't long before she's warned to mind her own business, or else.
When an author chooses to set a book in an actual location, a reader should feel as if they are actually there. It's one thing if the setting is imaginary. But, I took issue before when an author's mystery felt as if it could have been set in any island community. Terrie Farley Moran doesn't make that mistake. She capitalizes on the rich history of southwest Florida, stories of islands, treasures, pristine locations. She celebrates the local characters, long-time residents with names that resonate in the area, names such as Smallwood. All of the local color creates a vivid backdrop for this debut mystery.
There are a few weaknesses. At times, Bridgy comes across as pushy, and seems an unlikely best friend. Sassy has a few of the flaws I dislike. She doesn't always tell the police what she knows, and, she makes one of those "Too Stupid To Live" mistakes, and even realizes it at the time. And, I felt as if the motive for murder was obvious. But, some of the characters are quirky and interesting; Bridgy's Aunt Ophie who shows up to help in a pinch, Miss Augusta, Skully, the reporter Cady. And, of course, it's always fun to read a mystery set in the world of books, with the discussion of titles.
Terrie Farley Moran's first mystery novel, Well Read, Then Dead, is entertaining. The rich background sets the scene for this debut, and beckons readers to enter a world with all kinds of possibilities for crime. What better location than a setting already rich with stories of treasures, piracy and murder, and, now, a location for tourists, treasure-seekers, and fortune hunters? Welcome to southwest Florida and Read 'Em and Eat.
Terrie Farley Moran's website is www.terriefarleymoran.com
Well Read, Then Dead by Terrie Farley Moran. Berkley Prime Crime. 2014. ISBN 9780425270288 (paperback), 295p.
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.