In A Killer Plot, the first in the Books by the Bay series by Ellery Adams, Olivia Limoges has returned to Oyster Bay, the North Carolina seaside town of her childhood. After having lost both of her parents in separate traumatic events as a young child, Olivia left Oyster Bay and became a rich heiress, but with a strong sense of not belonging to anyone or anyplace.
She has avoided all forms of commitment, partly for fear that others would learn about her painful past. But in Oyster Bay, everyone knows about her history, so eventually she opens up to a few people in the town. As the book opens, Olivia is viewed by most residents with scorn for her wealth and perceived snobbery, which is really an expression of her shyness. At first, Olivia has just one friend, but Dixie soon introduces Olivia to a book writers’ group, and before long Olivia realizes that she actually has some friends.
In just a short time, however, one of the members of the writers’ club gets murdered, and the murderer has scrawled a haiku on the wall next to the body, leading the writers’ club to determine to assist the police by analyzing both the poem and the victim’s manuscript for clues.
While the plot is indeed interesting, this book’s greatest strength is in its character development. By the end of the book, I felt invested in each character, which was especially impressive given the extensive diversity of the members of the book writers’ group: a computer programmer writing an apocalyptic science fiction book, an exotic-looking waitress at a very low-class bar writing a young adult fantasy, a flamboyantly gay gossip columnist writing a fictional story based upon the lives of a scandalous celebrity family, and a young mother of toddler twins writing a romance novel. Olivia is writing a historical fiction about a girl made a concubine to pharaoh in ancient Egypt. In addition, we meet the dwarf (don’t dare call her a “little person”!) waitress who is Olivia’s first friend in Oyster Bay, the chief of police investigating the murders, the owner of the new bookstore in town who is clearly sweet on Olivia, and the temperamental but genius chef of Olivia’s 5-star restaurant. The final, and my favorite, major character in the book is Captain Haviland, the standard poodle who is Olivia’s constant companion. He shows his acumen numerous times and helps to save the day in the end. Adams endows him with fun character, making me fall in love with this dog from the start.
Along with the excellent portrayal of such diverse characters is Adams’ terrific job of writing in each character’s voice for that character’s audience. I was drawn into the depictions of the girl and her griffin in the young adult fantasy novel, the dysfunctional family in the novel based upon a real celebrity family, and the Egyptian concubine in the historical fiction. Adams not only did a good job of writing in the different genres, but wrote in the voice of the respective characters.
The series is available through Audible and is narrated by Karen White, who does a good job of connecting the readers to the book and bringing to life the disparate characters found in the book.
This book most certainly makes me want to continue on with the series, mainly because of the way the characters come to life. Because I found the plot a little weak at times, with the police chief having to give a detailed explanation at the end of the somewhat confusing motives for the crimes, I can’t give this book five stars, but it richly deserves its four stars, and I eagerly will now turn to book two, A Deadly Cliche, to find out what happens in the lives of these characters.
A Killer Plot (A Books by the Bay Mystery) is available for purchase on Amazon, in bookstores, and in your local library.
The book trailer: