An easy-going romance-mystery, Trouble on Treasure Island: A Beach House Mystery is a lighthearted read with an undercurrent of sinister. Seth Sjostrom establishes the right tone for a mystery-romance set at a beach house on the Gulf Coast of Florida.
Kate Harper, a well-to-do realtor, works for a real estate management company specializing in high-end rentals, mostly on beaches throughout the United States. As she inspects a house on Treasure Island near St. Petersburg, FL, her foot goes through a rotten board on one of the decks facing the ocean. A surfer using the beach access easement next to the property, comes to her aid. Turns out, he’s a handyman. So, Kate hires him. Nick Mason, the surfer-handyman, becomes friendly with Kate as she finds more jobs for him to do.
One night, Kate witnesses some unusual activity on the beach—two shadowy figures, one chasing the other—she hears a scream before the figures disappear along the shoreline. Kate exits the house to give chase but finds nothing but an engagement ring along the path the figures had taken. What follows is the discovery of Joann Marrs murdered further along the beach. The police investigation, with much input from Kate and a reluctant Nick, consumes the rest of the novel.
I enjoyed this lighthearted read. Sharp-eyed and perceptive describe Kate. She easily interprets what she sees and hears concerning the murder and the police investigation. She puts herself out there to move the investigation along. Nick, it turns out, is a non-practicing lawyer as well as surfer and handyman. He is no slouch as a handyman, who can put together an intricate alarm system in the beach house for Kate. He’s a gentleman, who also knows the best local places to have great food. But he could be more well-rounded, not just a love interest for Kate.
And that’s another thing—to a large extent, Kate seems a little oblivious to the effect she’s having on Nick. Kate is also unaware of the effect she has on Detective Connolly, the policeman in charge of Joann Marrs’ murder investigation. All in all, more could be made of this emergent love triangle than what happens throughout the book. That might be a missed opportunity to ramp up the novel’s tension in a different direction.
Another potential shortcoming is that it takes about one-third of the book before it begins to ramp up. The beginning encompasses a lot of stealthy, creeping intruders who slink around Kate’s beach house, but don’t do much to move the plot along. Nor do they create the brooding atmosphere for which Sjostrom strove.
Sjostrom does do a great job of characterizing Frank Driscoll. Driscoll, a private investigator hired by someone in Charleston with an interest in the murder of Joann Marrs. Assigned to keep an eye on Kate, Driscoll uses various not very effective disguises to do so. He adds a delightful air to the mystery.
All things considered, Trouble on Treasure Island: A Beach House Mystery is a great romp on the gulf coast. The scenery, the restaurants, the marinas and the house at the center of this mystery all delight the reader as do the main characters: Kate Harper, Nick Mason and Detective Connolly.
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I received a copy of Trouble on Treasure Island: A Beach House Mystery and gave a fair review.
Trouble on Treasure Island: A Beach House Mystery
by Seth Sjostrom