Murder by the Seashore (California Bookshop Mystery: Book 1) by Samara Yew

Publisher: Crooked Lane Books

Date of publication: October 17th, 2023

Genre: Cozy Mystery, Mystery, Fiction, Adult, Amateur Sleuth, Contemporary

Series: California Bookshop Mystery

Murder by the Seashore—Book 1

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

Perfect for fans of Jenn McKinlay and Ellery Adams, Scarlett Gardner’s dream was to open a bookshop in Southern California, but it soon becomes a nightmare when she finds the dead body of a customer—and becomes the prime suspect.

Southern California is where dreams come true—or so Scarlett Gardner thought. When she came out and opened the Palm Trees and Page Turners bookshop, she thought her boyfriend and business partner would be part of the story. When he leaves her for a better job, Scarlett finds herself struggling to keep her new business afloat. That’s not the only thing she has to worry about—she discovers something underneath the pier by her bookstore that she didn’t outline for her life’s story: the dead body of a book-buying customer.

After Scarlett gives a statement to the police, she thinks her life can go back to business as usual. But when a lawyer, representing someone named Lorelai Knight, tells her that Scarlett now stands to inherit a small fortune, Scarlett is left with more questions than answers. Before she can think about any of it, the police bring her in for questioning; the body she found was Lorelai Knight. And the evidence they have against Scarlett doesn’t look good—not only does she have a motive because of her inheritance, but a bottle of the same poison found in Lorelai’s system was discovered near the bookshop. Business is booming as Scarlett returns to the bookshop, but for all the wrong reasons – they want to question the last known suspect of the murder.

Who could really be behind all of this? And why frame Scarlett? To clear her name, she’s going to have get creative—and hope she can remain one page ahead of the killer.

First Line:

The involuntary morning mantra that had been running through my head every day for the past four months began at its usual time, nine thirty a.m.

Murder by the Seashore by Samara Yew

Important things you need to know about the book:

Pace: Murder by the Seashore had a medium-paced storyline. I wasn’t a fan of the pacing. I felt that it could have gone a little faster. It seemed like the author drew out certain events because of the pace.

Trigger/Content Warning: There are no trigger or content warnings in Murder by the Seashore.

Series: Murder by the Seashore is the first book in the California Bookshop Mystery. Since it is the first book, you don’t have to worry about missing information on characters or plotlines. You can dive right now in and enjoy.

Sexual Content: There is no sexual content in Murder by the Seashore. The main character doesn’t have time to have sex or kiss anyone.

Language: There is very light language used in Murder by the Seashore.

Setting: Murder by the Seashore is set entirely in Oceanside, California.

Representation: There is Asian representation (Hiroki Yoshida, one of Scarlet’s friends, is Japanese) and Latina representation (Lucia Armenta, Scarlet’s best friend, roommate, and lawyer is Hispanic).

Tropes: The Unlikable Victim, Outsmarting the Criminal, The Red Herring, The Protagonist is the Suspect, Twist Ending

Age Range to read Murder by the Seashore: I went back and forth with the rating. But, because it is a clean book (no sex, light language), I would recommend 16 and over to read.

Plot Synopsis (as spoiler-free as I can get):

Scarlet was living the dream of running a seaside bookstore with her boyfriend. But that dream crashed when her boyfriend ditched her and left her responsible for the shop. Struggling for months, Scarlet is finally making headway when two things happen-she finds the body of a murdered customer under the pier by her shop, and she is contacted by a lawyer who says she has inherited a small fortune from the murder victim. Declared the main suspect in the murder and wondering if the surprise inheritance has anything to do with it, Scarlet starts her investigation to clear her name. But even she is surprised by the twists and turns her investigation takes her. Will she clear her name? And will she figure out why the victim chose her as a beneficiary?

Main Characters

Scarlet Gardner: I like Scarlet. She was trying to keep her dream (the bookshop) alive but was slowly drowning. Her horror at finding Lorelai Knight came off the page, as was her disbelief over how the investigation was going. But things went a little sideways for me when she started looking into the case. Instead of the confident woman at the beginning of the book, she becomes obsessed with finding her killer. She jumped on the bandwagon for each suspect that she and Lucia came up with. At a point in the book, I wondered if the killer would be revealed with all the distractions being thrown around. By the end of the book, though, I did like how she made headway with her case. I also liked that she talked to her suspects and explained why she thought they killed Lorelai.

Secondary characters: There were a lot of secondary characters who had a lot of page time (Lucia, Evelyn, Connor). While I liked the extra depth they brought to the storyline, some fell flat.

My review:

Murder by the Seashore was an OK mystery for me. I had difficulty getting into it because of the book’s pacing and how the murder/inheritance played out. But once I got into it, I enjoyed reading it. I did get a little grumpy with the police investigation. I can understand naming Scarlet as their primary suspect, but to freak out on her when she opens her backdoor and finds a dead man on her stoop? With her lawyer friend/roommate as her alibi? A little much. I did like how the author wrapped up the book and was surprised at who the murderer ended up being.

The main storyline centers on Scarlet, the murder of Lorelai Knight, her inheritance from Lorelai, and who the murderer is. As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, I wasn’t a massive fan of how the police’s investigation of Lorelai went. The single-handed focus on Scarlet wore on me, and I couldn’t wait for the actual murderer to be revealed. What also wore on me was Scarlet’s investigation into Lorelai’s murder and why she was given the inheritance. I was glad when the author finally brought both together and revealed the killer. That was a huge surprise because I didn’t see that person coming at all.

The mystery angle was all right. I was halfway right about Lorelai and her reasons for giving Scarlet her money. But the reason why didn’t surprise me. The reason why Lorelai was killed did surprise me. The motive and who did it was a massive twist at the end of the book. I felt terrible for that person, but they did stupid things and paid the consequences.

The end of Murder by the Seashore was typical. I liked how the author wrapped everything up. I loved how Scarlet dealt with Connor (I was internally cheering). I also liked how the author set up book 2!!

Many thanks to Crooked Lane Books, NetGalley, and Samara Yew for allowing me to read and review this ARC of Murder by the Seashore. All opinions expressed in this review are mine.

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