Coffin Cove (2021) by Jackie Elliott

Andrea “Andi” Silvers was a star reporter until using an unreliable source led to her career falling apart. That, combined with the end of her affair with her married editor, sent her life off the rails until she manages to find a job on the Coffin Cove Gazette, the local paper in a fishing town on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

Expecting this lifeline to be little more than reporting on cake-baking contests, reality kicks in when two sea lions wash up on shore, shot dead. And then a human body shows up…

Twenty years ago, a fifteen-year-old girl was drowned and the lead suspect has returned to town. As Andi digs deeper, she finds that beneath the surface of the town, there are some very dark secrets…

Regular readers will no doubt a) have realised that my Easter break is over, hence the five day break between reviews and b) be puzzling over my choice of book. After all, this is supposed to be Awesome April, deliberately picking new reads that I know I am going to enjoy. So why take a chance on a new-to-me author? Well, because someone who works at Joffe Books started following me, I saw this on their twitter feed and thought, what the heck? It certainly sounds like my sort of thing.

Although, editors and publicists out there, while I have your attention, can I ask – stop adding those b****y taglines to the title on Amazon or wherever. The book is called Coffin Cove, not “Coffin Cove – A gripping murder mystery full of twits twists.” [And I did read it as “twits” the first time.] Apart from the fact that it’s just annoying, it also raises the bar when it comes to expectations. And, I’d argue, it’s not completely true when it comes to this book.

To be clear, I enjoyed the book a lot. I thought the world-building going on here was terrific. I know next to nothing about fishing towns on Vancouver Island, but the almost-alienness of the location really came alive. The character work is strong, too. Andi is not in a good place at the start, but believably so, more a victim of circumstance and a couple of bad choices than anything else, and the support cast is nicely realised too, especially as it’s not clear to the reader who, as it’s the first book, is support cast and who is a suspect.

The crime plot builds nicely too. I never thought I’d be gripped by a plot involving cut-price salmon, but I live and learn. Things build to an explosive and effective climax at a good pace, and things are worked out, rather than being told to our heroine. I say heroine, but there are a number of other characters that we spend time with here – a little like how Michael Jecks does things – and the interrelationships between them works very well. We get an insight into the more unpleasant members of the cast as well, which helps paint an overall picture.

So, as a crime thriller, it’s very good. As a mystery… well, there are three crimes here. The sea lions and two murders. The resolutions to those are, in no particular order, clear as we are told whodunnit straight away, nebulous and obvious. The obvious one, given the nature of the book, I’d have been astonished if it had been anyone else involved in that one… So it’s the “full of twists” part that I take issue with from the blurb – at no point did I have that “Wow!” moment on a reveal.

It does speak volumes of other aspects of the book that this didn’t annoy me and that I’ll be back for another visit to Coffin Cove soon – there are currently two more titles in the series. Hopefully the resolution will be a little more surprising next time, though.

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