Murder at the Brightwell

Murder at the Brightwell
by Ashley Weaver

Amory Ames is a wealthy young woman who regrets her marriage to her notoriously charming playboy husband, Milo. Looking for a change, she accepts a request for help from her former fiancé, Gil Trent, not knowing that she’ll soon become embroiled in a murder investigation that will test not only her friendship with Gil, but will upset the status quo with her husband.

Amory accompanies Gil to the Brightwell Hotel in an attempt to circumvent the marriage of his sister, Emmeline, to Rupert Howe, a disreputable ladies’ man. Amory sees in the situation a grim reflection of her own floundering marriage. There is more than her happiness at stake, however, when Rupert is murdered and Gil is arrested for the crime. Amory is determined to prove his innocence and find the real killer, despite attempted dissuasion from the disapproving police inspector on the case. Matters are further complicated by Milo’s unexpected arrival, and the two form an uneasy alliance as Amory enlists his reluctant aid in clearing Gil’s name. As the stakes grow higher and the line between friend and foe becomes less clear, Amory must decide where her heart lies and catch the killer before she, too, becomes a victim. 

Murder at the Brightwell is a delicious mystery in which murder invades polite society and romance springs in unexpected places. Weaver has penned a debut in the tradition of Jacqueline Winspear. 

NOTE: This is the first review for Vacation Mystery Week! It is a re-post from 2017 and I consider Murder at the Brightwell a full length novel. Now for the review…

I discovered Amory Ames through Olive at A Book Olive. (She’s also responsible for introducing me to the Iris Cooper series) She has only great things to say about the Amory Ames mystery series and I was in need of a new historical read featuring a snarky female detective. The first book, Murder at the Brightwell, was the perfect choice for my cruise vacation last March!

Amory is unhappy. She’s bored, and depressed at her rapidly deteriorating marriage to socialite Milo Ames. A welcome distraction arrives with Gil, the fiancé she jilted to marry Milo. Gil begs her to join him on holiday to help persuade his sister from jumping into a bad marriage. Amory agrees to help. She desperately needs an adventure and a chance at a different future. And then someone gets murdered!

I am hooked on Weaver’s Amory Ames series. Our heroine is smart, sharp tongued, and gloriously flawed. I immediately connected with her tendency to overthink everything and her stubborn refusal to backdown from a fight. She begins her investigation with the best intentions, to help a friend, but her quest quickly becomes one of selfish needs as she is desperate to find her own sense of purpose in the world. Thank you Ashley Weaver for not sugar coating Amory’s motives! (Seriously..isn’t this why we mystery lovers enjoy a good whodunnit?!)

I would recommend Murder at the Brightwell just because Amory is so well written. But…all the main characters are just as fantastically developed! The Brightwell Hotel is the perfect setting with its picturesque beach local. And I found myself guessing at the culprit’s identity right up until the big reveal!

Now is Murder at the Brightwell the perfect novel? No. You can tell the historic British story is written by a modern American due to the overall tone. It is what it is. I will also admit to not being a fan of Milo. Don’t take this to mean that he was poorly written because that’s not the case; his personality isn’t one that would mesh with mine. I liked him well enough, just not enough to really root for him to win Amory’s affections. I didn’t really root for Gil either for that fact. I didn’t find the romantic element of the story necessarily engaging. I enjoyed Murder at the Brightwell because of Amory and her murder investigation.

Murder at the Brightwell is the perfect summer read. I definitely recommend the story if you enjoy a strong willed female detective! Let me know if you’re also a fan of Amory Ames!

Lindsay

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A Tan and Sandy Silence

A Tan and Sandy Silence

by John D. MacDonald

A Tan and Sandy Silence

Travis McGee is the strikingly handsome and ever resourceful invention of John D. MacDonald. Born in the author’s imagination in 1964, McGee drifted into the world on a 52-foot diesel-powered houseboat, the Busted Flush, which he has used as a base of operations through many adventures.

In A TAN AND SANDY SILENCE, news of a former girlfriend’s mysterious disappearance leads McGee to the West Indian island of Grenada. There he takes on a whirlwind plot of double-dealing, shady financing and shifting identities.

I am the type of person who takes a book with me everywhere; going grocery shopping, going to work (lunch break!), and of course I have at least one when on vacation. So it was somewhat of a shock when I found myself staying at a friend’s beach condo without something to read. I’m an early riser and I like to spend a quiet morning with a nice cup of coffee and a good book. Thankfully, the best thing about beach condos is there is almost always a shelf of second hand books for guests to peruse. And that is how I picked up A Tan and Sandy Silence.

I’m going to start with a warning. There will be a few spoilers in this review but I will not reveal who-dunnitt or ruin any part of the mystery for readers. However, these spoilers will discuss certain period plot devices that some readers may find disturbing. You will know about this stuff if you read any of the reviews on Goodreads, so it’s not really going to be a shock. I just wanted to let you know there are a few spoilers. You’ve been warned!

Let’s get started with the positive. A Tan and Sandy Silence was initially published in 1971 (my copy was printed in the 80s) and it is the 13th book in the Travis McGee series. Trav is a private detective living a comfortable life on a boat in a south Florida marina. All is right in his world until a man he despises arrives looking for a lost wife and almost kills McGee in the process. This encounter has McGee worried for the missing wife, who happens to be an old lover, and he sets out on his own to find her. I’ll be honest; the setting and atmosphere is the primary reason I was drawn to A Tan and Sandy Silence. I instantly felt like I was reading a mixture of Miami Vice and Magnum PI (two shows I love) and the beach mystery was the perfect way to jump into summer. The mystery was intriguing, the plot fast paced, and I was pleasantly surprised by the retrospective moments presented by our hero. I like Trav McGee. He is a very flawed and yet extremely likable character. I was drawn in by how smart he is and yet not discouraged during his shallow self-pitying moments. You could easy imagine stumbling upon him at the end of the dock cleaning freshly caught fish while enjoying a cold one. And his reflections on human nature still resonate today even after 40 years since the book was published. It was a thrilling beach mystery that made me think! And that’s something I will always say yes to.

Now on to the negative points…A Tan and Sandy Silence is definitely a product of the 1970s. Now for the previously warned spoiler, and well, all of the Goodreads reviews mention this scene so it’s not really a spoiler. About 2/3rds into the story, Travis strangles a female suspect during his interrogation. In my opinion the action was completely unnecessary, as it was rough, kinda out of character for McGee, and did nothing but cheapen the female character. However, I have to concede that I’m not sure what plot device could have been used instead. It did what it was intended to do; it let you know that this female suspect had no respect for herself and would do anything for money, including partnering with a man who threatened to kill her. I will add that one of two things could have happened after this scene. Travis could have taken advantage of the situation and I would have lost all respect for the gritty detective. Or he could have decided not to. I finished the story so that that for what you will. I will advise that the female characters are overly sexualize and are rather shallow. Note that I say SOME, as there are a few strong willed smart business women which was pleasant to read. However, I don’t recommend this story for those wanting well developed female characters. They just aren’t there.

This book provided exactly what I wanted; a written story that invokes the same beachy nostalgia that I get when watching Miami Vice and Magnum P.I. Is it a work of genius? Nope. Is it on the top of my favorites list? Nope. Will I probably read another Travis McGee story? Absolutely! These are the type of stories I crave during Florida’s hot summer days, and you can definitely expect to find me enjoying a second hand Travis McGee story at the beach. So check out Tan and Sandy Silence and let me know what you think!

Have a great weekend.

Lindsay