My read-alikes list isn't very good. I had trouble thinking of books that would fit that I had actually read, so I ended up listing books with similar settings.
Addie Gorsky used to be a homicide detective in Baltimore but is now Chief of Security at Mystic Cove, a retirement community in Florida. It's not her favorite place to be, but it does mean she's around to help out her dad, who has cancer.
At the start of this book, Addie discovers the body of Mel Dick, one of Mystic Cove's more annoying residents, with gunshot wounds indicating that he was murdered. The police think the most likely suspect is the man's wife, but Addie isn't so sure. Mel had been acting oddly in the months prior to his death, and he certainly wasn't lacking in enemies. Addie decides to conduct an investigation of her own, risking the ire of both her boss and Sheriff Spooner.
I went into this book expecting it to be a cozy mystery. That was a mistake. The tone was closer to a hard-boiled detective story than a cozy.
There were a lot of elements that would have fit in just fine in a cozy: an overweight pug that ended up becoming Addie's responsibility, a few Mystic Cove residents that might have qualified as “quirky” in another novel, and Mystic Cove itself, with its fake historical landmarks and residents who probably traveled more via golf carts than on foot. However, Addie's cynicism and general humorlessness colored everything. A couple examples:
“There was a serpent in paradise and last night it had slithered from its hidden place and struck, bringing death to Mel Dick.” (32)The publisher's description made it sound like Addie preferred the slower pace of Mystic Cove to the life of a homicide detective, but, in reality, she quit being a homicide detective because she wasn't good at following rules and working with others and her partner had paid the price. And yet she didn't blame herself for his death – no dwelling on her mistakes, no wondering what might have been, no wallowing in guilt.
“Admiral Street was ominously quiet—silent houses with shuttered windows, like blind eyes. The eyes of the dead.” (99)
Instead, Addie felt emotionally guarded, even from the reader. Although the book was written in first person POV, it might as well have been third for all the insight it gave me on her. For example, her dad was probably the most important person in her life, but she rarely thought about him in detail when she wasn't in his presence. Her feelings for Tyler, her ex-boyfriend, were a puzzle. I could never figure out whether she was over him and he was just an occasional fuck buddy or something, or whether he still had some hold over her emotions.
The mystery itself was okay, although complicated by more than one person having a secret murderous past. It did bother me how many times Addie did things that she knew could get her in trouble, and possibly even arrested. She had her job and her dad to worry about, but none of that was enough to keep her from doing as she pleased. Even worse, she was frequently sloppy about her rule-breaking. For example, instead of breaking into a building, getting what she needed, getting out, and then taking a closer look at what she'd found, she took that closer look while she was still in the building, dawdling just long enough to get caught.
Had the murderer not suffered from a sudden bout of stupidity near the end of the book, things wouldn't have turned out well for Addie. I'm still not sure why the murderer conveniently confessed to everything in Addie's presence – it was practically a given that Addie was either recording it all or that the Sheriff was within hearing distance.
At this point, I have no plans to read the next book. Addie's relationship with her father was relatively interesting, and I liked Jinks the pug, but the tone of this first book really didn't work for me.
- The Deep Blue Good-by (book) by John D. McDonald - I haven't read this. It's the first in McDonald's Travis McGee series, which came up while I was looking for hard-boiled detective stories set in Florida. It was published back in 1964, so it's not modern Florida, and at least one review mentioned that the series is deeply chauvinistic, but it may still appeal to those looking for a Florida-set detective story with a cynical edge.
- Dumpster Dying (book) by Lesley A. Diehl - Again, I haven't read this. It came up while I was looking up mysteries set in Florida. The protagonist moved to Florida in order to settle into retirement and instead stumbles across a body. From the sounds of things, it's the kind of cozy mystery I expected when I picked up Murder in Mystic Cove.
- East of Peculiar (book) by Suzann Ledbetter - Another one I haven't read. It's a mystery set in a retirement community, but, from the sounds of things, lighter in tone than Murder in Mystic Cove, with some humor and romance.