With each book in the Books by the Bay series by Ellery Adams having a general theme that ties together its many subplots, Lethal Letters, book six, examines the nature of family and the way that one’s true family does not have to be biological but rather is comprised of those tied together by the bonds of love.
WARNING: If you have not read the previous books, in particular the first two, and preferably the fourth book, this review will give significant spoilers!
While helping her head chef, Michel, plan his wedding, Olivia visits the First Presbyterian Church just as workmen discover a time capsule buried in 1917, which will be a perfect addition to the Secret Garden Party that Olivia is catering in support of the Oyster Bay Historical Society. The moment Pastor Jeffries, whose ancestors have been pastors of this church for generations, sees a copper box with a unique seal on it, he drops his eager examination of the inventory list and runs to get Bellamy Drummond, the woman in charge of the Historical Society and whose family, Olivia soon learns, is represented by the seal on that box. But before Olivia can find out what has scared the pastor or what is in the box, it disappears without any acknowledgement of its having been in the time capsule in the first place. The Bayside Book Writers must now work their magic in learning as much as possible about the Drummond family.
The day after the discovery of the time capsule, Olivia and Chief Rawlings, her fiance, spend a morning taking care of Olivia’s niece and nephew, when Olivia and young Katelyn discover the body of a young woman on the beach, though fortunately this woman looks peaceful, so Katelyn does not realize the woman is dead. To get the children away from this potential crime scene, Olivia takes them to Through the Wardrobe, the local bookstore. However, Olivia is delivered a further shock when at the store she sees her biological father, a man whom she never knew existed until the fourth book in the series, and who has just purchased this beloved store despite Olivia’s demand to him to stay out of her life and Oyster Bay.
The time capsule and the potential murder become entwined when Chief Rawlings learns that the murdered woman is Ruthie Holcomb, the extremely impoverished best friend of Sylvia Drummond, the daughter of posh Bellamy Drummond, chair of the Historical Society and whose seal appears on the box that has disappeared from the time capsule. The girls, who seem to have no friends but each other, have had to carry on their friendship clandestinely by hiding letters for each other in books at the library. Bellamy hates the idea of her daughter’s associating with Ruthie so much that she arranges to send Sylvia away to live with her aunt.
In an interesting side plot, Laurel, now the assistant editor of the local newspaper, The Gazette, draws the Bayside Book Writers into her own undercover investigation of a potential drug trade operating out of Bagels and Beans, the former store of Olivia’s previously dear friend. This investigation centers around Sylvia Drummond’s brother, Hunter Drummond.
Lethal Letters gives us two wonderful and highly different weddings, as well as more of the members of the Bayside Writers Club, who by now fit into the broader definition of Olivia’s family, being people who truly love each other. It is particularly exciting to see Olivia surrender herself to Rawlings and her love for him after having seen her struggle throughout the whole series to learn to open up to people even as friends, let alone as a husband.
One element I love about the Bayside Book Writers Club is the way that each member has unique strengths, and it is only when working together as a team and thus one unit that the group can reach its best success. For example, Harris is a whiz at any kind of online research, while Milay can read people better than the best charlatan fortune teller, and Laurel is great at connecting the dots between the material that everyone discovers.
The narration, by award-winning narrator Karen White, once again lives up to its previous high standard in the audio version, available in MP3 CD format or through Audible. Currently, White has 265 titles listed as being narrated by her on Audible, a popularity that she well deserves.
This series is truly amazing, but I cannot stress enough that you must read each book in order. Without seeing the actual development of Olivia and the other characters, you will not appreciate the strength of the books as much, and most books contain a new revelation about Olivia’s personal life. I give Lethal Letters the biggest possible rating, 5 stars!
Lethal Letters (A Books by the Bay Mystery Book 6) is available now. To order from Amazon, click the link in the title.