Title: Slain at the Sea (A Maddie Mills Cozy Mystery #1)
Author: Cindy Bell
Published on: 20 July 2022
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Slain at the Sea is the first book in Cindy Bell’s Maddie Mills Cozy Mystery series.
Maddie Mills, a middle-aged divorcee moves back to her late parents’ beachfront house. Her no-good husband ends up behind bars and leaves her with almost no money. She never saw it coming – his lies, his cheating, second mortgages on the house, nope!
When Maddie and her best friend Amber are at the local café, they meet Helen. Helen is on the council board and she tells Maddie to renovate the house – paint it, sell it, do whatever it takes to make it look better – so that when the property developers finish their project and the tourists start coming in, Maddie’s house does not look like an eyesore.
A few hours later, Maddie sees something pink on the beach. Curious to see what’s come floating from the sea, she walks towards the beach. When she reaches closer, she realizes it’s a body. And she remembers the person who was wearing that exact colored dress this morning – Helen.
Maddie’s curiosity gets the better of her and she decides to find the perp. As she starts digging into Helen’s life, she learns that nobody in town liked the victim. But who would have hated Helen so much that they would kill her?
I keep seeing Cindy Bell’s books in the KU catalog often so when this new series was released, I thought of giving it a try. I loved the writing. I wish I could say the same about the main character.
Maddie Mills is not your usual amateur sleuth. I found her to be a tad annoying. Way too nosey for my taste. Throughout the story, we see Maddie interviewing her suspects on false pretenses, telling the Chief (who turns out to be her school classmate) that she has clues pertaining to the case – in a way that suggests the police are not capable of doing their jobs, and poking her nose where it does not belong. She’s repeatedly warned by suspects and the Chief – after all, there’s a killer on loose and Maddie thinks sleuthing is a child’s play.
One more thing that I felt weird, or rather, unrealistic was Maddie’s grief. Let me explain. Maddie learns that Helen is Chuck’s wife. Chuck, Maddie and Amber used to play together when they were kids. Though Chuck was younger than the two girls, they allowed him to tag along. When Maddie left town, she lost contact with Amber and Chuck. Though she had opportunities to reconnect, she did not.
Now, she learns that Chuck passed away due to a heart attack. She grieves for him. When Helen is killed, she decides to bring Helen’s killer to justice – as a way of making up with Chuck. Okay, that hardly made a lot of sense to me. She never spoke to the guy for decades and when she returns to her hometown, she feels so bad for losing him that she decides to solve his wife’s murder? Hmm!
When the Chief suspects a certain somebody (withholding name as it makes this review a spoiler) might be Helen’s killer, Maddie is sure they are innocent. Reason? Gut instinct, probably. She goes out of her way to prove they are innocent. Maddie dear, nobody likes a know-it-all.
It becomes quite clear to the reader that the ongoing protests in town might be the reason for Helen’s murder. There was a talk of luxury spa which Helen endorsed. There was also a talk of amusement park in the bidding – which Helen did not want. She made her choices clear, thus gaining a few enemies. To add to her list of enemies were those who did not want any kind of property development in their town – hence the protests. We also have a suspected murder case, an extra marital affair, lost teenage love and a trail of broken hearts.
Maddie’s late parents owned a bakery so when Maddie returns, there is a talk about her reopening the bakery. As the story ends, Maddie still hasn’t decided what to do of the bakery – sell it or reopen it. If you ask me, I would love to see her reopen the bakery – it can become a gossip spot, you see. Given that Maddie loves to snoop around and poke her nose where it does not belong, reopening the bakery might be work out for her. 😉
Overall, Slain at the Sea by Cindy Bell was an interesting series debut. My only niggle was the portrayal of main character. But I would give this series another try – read the next book and then decide if the main character is way too annoying for my taste.