Pearl Nolan is the owner of a successful seafood restaurant in the seaside town of Whitstable, situated on the North Kent coast and famous for its oysters. But this isn’t enough for Pearl. Her planned career as a detective in the police force was derailed by an unexpected pregnancy but now that her son is away at university, it’s time to do something about it – so she opens her own detective agency.
When her first client asks her to dig up some dirt on a local fisherman, she declines the job. But when she discovers the fisherman dead, drowned while tangled in the anchor chain of his fishing boat, and her would-be client locked in a beach hut (and also dead, naturally) she finds herself clashing with the local police force in the form of Chief Inspector Mike Maguire. But as the investigation progresses, it seems that the motives for the crime may lie buried in the past…
I’ve broken a cardinal rule with this series. The books in order are The Whitstable Pearl Mystery, Murder On Sea and May Day Murder and if you observantly peruse my blog, you’ll see that I’ve read them in reverse order. I’ll be honest about the reason for book three coming first – the publisher and author asked me to take a look as part of the blog tour and while it looked like it would be a fun read, I figured that at best, it would be a decent enough cosy mystery.
I was wrong about that – it was a damn good cosy mystery with well-constructed characters. The idea of restauranteur/detective may seem odd, but Pearl and her ambitions make sense and it never seems odd once you start reading. Pearl’s relationship with Maguire seemed pretty natural and most important, despite me spotting part of the solution, Julie had me looking the wrong way for the rest of it. I really enjoyed the book, so it made sense to go back to the beginning. And then the publishers sent me book two to take a look at, so the reverse order was sorted.
And finally, I’ve got round to the first book, and it’s just as good as the other two. The town of Whitstable is brought to life and the characters are quickly and effectively introduced and, as I mentioned before, the notion of running a restaurant and a detective agency somehow is made to make perfect sense. The background characters shine as well – I certainly found myself concerned about the potential fate of Ruby, Pearl’s waitress, who becomes involved in events. And the mystery is well-plotted and while the clues are more like hints – there’s a fair bit to be guessed at – the solution makes perfect sense, and even though I was fairly sure about one character’s involvement due to having read the next two books, I was still caught out by a plot that is both complex and yet surprising straightforward as well.
So if you’re a fan of mysteries that don’t have to be drenched in gore and/or depravity, I strongly point you in the direction of Whitstable. This is the sort of book that I was looking for when I started the blog in the dim and distant past and needless to say, this is Highly Recommended. Looking forward to Book Four.