I was born in Hawaii and have at least one picture of my young self on the beach with a huge hibiscus in my hair. Since we moved when I was two, I don’t remember much about constantly being on a beach in a playpen, but I do have the photographic evidence to show that it happened. Maybe that’s why my perfect reading day involves sand, sea, a light breeze, a frosty beverage, and a healthy dose of murder!
However, we then moved to Pennsylvania, which does not exactly have oceanfront property. We have a lot of rivers, creeks, and lakes, but not so much a seaside, with Pennsylvania being a mostly landlocked state. New Jersey wasn’t that far away though, and I took every opportunity to sink my toes into the sand at the shore even if it was only once a year. And on the East Coast, you rarely go to the “beach” since you’re actually going to the “shore”—or “down the shore” more accurately, if you’re into dialect.
Then we moved back to California, and I spent a lot of time on beaches with those books, that ocean, and that frosty beverage. Occasionally we’d head over to the beautiful island of Catalina off the coast. I loved it there and was absolutely thrilled to get the opportunity to write a series of mysteries set on that little island with its roughly three thousand permanent residents and tons of tourists. Not to mention the absolutely delightful glass-bottom boats. And the golf carts—we cannot forget the golf carts that permeate the island, since you have to wait almost 35 years on a wait-list to get a car over on Catalina Island!
It also helped that many of the people in my family are hardcore nautical junkies! I have an aunt who lives on a boat in a slip in a harbor in Southern California; several relatives who live on the Big Island in Hawaii; and an uncle who sailed from California all the way to Virginia before pulling into port and calling it a day. My grandfather also owned a boat, the Rubiyat, for years, and I learned from him all about scuppers and bulkheads and tying knots galore. So I had just enough knowledge to ask the right questions and hopefully provide an authentic ride around the island as I wrote the Whit and Whiskers adventures in Much Ado About Nauticaling and the follow up, Something Fishy This Way Comes.
Of course, not all beaches or shores are quite the same, just like all small towns aren’t the same. But there’s a feeling of community, relaxation, and ease on the coastline that can’t be beat. And I love to bring that straight into my readers’ minds as they dive into an ocean of amateur sleuths, sandy beaches, and rocky relationships that sometimes end in murder. However, murder is only the beginning of the story. Getting to visit the community within these books is a close second to figuring out whodunnit. I also adore a good dose of humor with that murder mystery, too, along with the guarantee of justice that is inherent within the cozy mystery genre. So let’s dive into some recommendations of where to get into that sea of awesome—some nautically delicious stories to keep you under that umbrella on the beach; your toes in the sand, your heart galloping, and your laughter contagious as you wind your way through a good mystery. Beware: You might laugh out loud several times, so be ready to hold up the book for others to see what they’re missing out on. It’s a pretty clear signal that they should be reading too and to not bother you while you’re immersed in a good story. Otherwise, they might have to walk the plank…
Live and Let Chai by Bree Baker
One of my favorite series is Bree Baker’s Seaside Café Mysteries––pick one, any one, but it’s best to start at the beginning with Live and Let Chai. The humor, the locale, the super-fun titles! I love the seaside town of Charm, and Everly Swan is my kind of girl. I am totally on board with the growth of the main character and love the twisty plots Bree puts in every story. Currently there are seven books in this series. You’d better hurry to catch up! I was first turned on to this series by Jerri Cachero, who runs a marvelous cozy mystery reading group online.
Killer Cruise by Laura Levine
Laura Levine’s Killer Cruise in her hilarious Jaine Austen Mystery series is another delightful cozy romp on the sea. Who hasn’t thought of what it would be like to set sail on an all-expenses paid cruise ship? But of course very little goes to plan because this is Jaine after all! You’ll laugh, you’ll cackle, you’ll be on the edge of your seat as Jaine tries to navigate her way through a mess not of her making, but one she seems destined to help clean up. I love Laura Levine’s series in general, but this one is especially awesome.
Spell for Trouble by Esme Addison
Next up is Esme Addison’s Enchanted Bay Mysteries, which was recommended to me by the lovely Heather Doyle Harrison, who runs an awesome cozy book group online. Love, love, love the mermaid/water witch vibe here, and the wonderful scenery. There are only two books in this series currently but am very hopeful that we’ll get to spend more time with Alex and her wonderful crew. The romance and magic and mystery pulled me right in, and made me not want to do anything but run through the pages like water.
An Appetite for Murder by Lucy Burdette
I know a lot of people really dig the culinary mysteries, especially with awesome recipes to share, so we must include Lucy Burdette’s Key West Food Critic Mysteries! I adore the cast of characters in these, and so far, there are eleven (twelve in August) that you can sink your teeth into as you lounge in your summer attire with the appropriate beverage and maybe a snack or two. I love the intrigue and the scenarios in these books and can’t put them down once I’ve started.
Guidebook to Murder by Lynn Cahoon
Last but certainly not least we have to talk about The Tourist Trap Mysteries by Lynn Cahoon. Delightful is one word that comes to mind for these mysteries set in a coastal Californian town. I love the way Lynn tells her stories, grabbing you from the beginning and not letting you go, to the point where you’re trying to figure out how to make dinner one-handed. And I love the way her characters move through the stories. They’re people I’d want to sit down and have a coffee with––as long as no murderer is on the loose, of course.