Review by Francene DePrez
I was drawn to the covers of the five books in the Gulf Coast Mystery series when I noticed them nestled on the shelf at Jefferson Carnegie Library. I immediately turned to the back of one of the books to read about the author.
I decided to read all five of the books in chronological order by date of publication: Thin Slice of Life, LaSalle’s Ghost, Ransom Island, North Beach and Hidden Sea. The books cover the period from 1953 to 2016, but the story is not a continuation from one book to the next.
The first book written is set in 1979; the third book in 1953. I enjoyed the first book, Thin Slice of Life, the most. This mystery-thriller is a good representation of life in Texas along the coast in the late 70s and early 80s.
Charlie Sweetwater returns to the small island business and home of his family to find that his brother, Johnny, is missing at sea. Many reviews called this book “certainly an engaging crime caper” and tells the tale of intrigue as Charlie tries to find his brother.
The third book, “Ransom Island” dates back to 1953 and covers the childhood of the two boys, Johnny and Charlie Sweetwater. I loved this book, although I agree with one reviewer who said, “Wish I had read this one first. Would have been easier to sort out family background.”
The Shady Boat and Leisure Club is a family-owned business on a very small island. Through a chance meeting with Duke Ellington, a large event is planned for the club over the Fourth of July weekend. It promises to be the first integrated dance in the area.
The book deals with the issues of setting up this large event, working among gangsters wanting to take over the club and a dirty sheriff trying to get in the mix. In the words of one reviewer, “the major theme that underlies these wonderful stories of action – and violence – and fun: the importance of family and friends.”
If you decide to read this series, you may want to read them in chronological order of the books rather than the order in which they were published: Ransom Island, North Beach, Thin Slice of Life, LaSalle’s Ghost and then Hidden Sea. Throughout all of the books, you wonder what happened to Charlie’s brother.
All is revealed in the last book, Hidden Sea, which was my least favorite of the series.
All five books are available at Jefferson Carnegie Library. Come by, pick the one you want to check out first and start reading the series today.
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