Mystery Monday: On Folly Beach by Karen White

Today’s title for Mystery Monday is by an author I’ve never read before, Karen White.  It’s called On Folly Beach.  It takes place in two different time periods centred around a small town on one of the barrier islands off the South Carolina coast where two women are thrown together and find they have more in common than they first thought.

From the back cover:

When Emmy Hamilton’s mother encourages her to buy the local bookstore, Folly’s Finds, she hopes it will distract her daughter from the loss of her husband.  But the seller has one condition that changes everything: Emmy must allow Lulu, the late owner’s difficult elderly sister, to continue selling her bottle trees from its backyard.

For the most part, Emmy ignores Lulu as she sifts through the love letters she finds in a box of used books.  But the more she discovers about the letters, the more she understands Lulu.  As details of a possible murder and a mysterious disappearance during WWII are revealed, the two women discover that circumstances beyond their control have brought them together on Folly Beach.  And it is here that their war-ravaged hearts can find hope again. . .

Emmy’s story begins in 2009, in Indiana.  She has what her mother calls “the knowing” — she senses things, sometimes from proximity and sometimes just from a strong awareness.  She knows instinctively when her husband Ben is killed, a casualty of the war in Afghanistan.  With her master’s degree in library science, Emmy could be a museum curator handling historical documents or hold a position with a university procuring historical letters but for now she is content to own and run a bookstore in the town of Folly — Folly’s Finds.  She’s not sure she really wants a new start but the mystery behind notes she finds in the margins of some of the books she inherits with the bookstore intrigue her almost to obsession.

Morris Island Lighthouse

Lulu’s story begins in 1942 in Folly, South Carolina.  Her older sister, Maggie, runs the bookstore inherited from her mother where Lulu helps out after school.  Their cousin Catherine, a very young and attractive war widow lives with them.  It’s war time, there’s a nearby naval base, and the town is popular, especially for the dances down at the pier.  Ever since Cat’s father left and mother died, she’s had this competitive streak — she uses her looks to attract men in her quest to feel loved, even to the point of taking her cousin Maggie’s beau.  She does it because she knows she can; she loves the challenge.  But it doesn’t work with Peter.  With Peter, the ladies get more than they bargained for.

I’m not always a fan of story lines flipping back and forth in time and at the beginning I wasn’t keen.  However, it wasn’t long before I was anxiously awaiting the next flip to find out what happened.  I really liked the characters Maggie and Emmy.  Maggie did her best to take care of her little sister, Lulu, and even to care for Cat despite her often “catty” attitude.  She had made a promise and she had an understanding of where Cat was coming from.  Lulu was a bit of a strange character, taking a long time to warm up to people, being blunt and straightforward to the point of being rude, and yet caring very much about those closest to her and about doing right by them.  Her artistic streak and the bottle trees she creates and sells are fascinating and it was rather neat the way people used them to send private messages.

I was intrigued by the name of the town, Folly, and ended up searching it out on the Internet.  Folly’s Beach is a real place off the South Carolina coast, one of the barrier islands, and the FBI did round up German spies all along the east coast after Pearl Harbor.  I liked the love of books the characters had and how people were named after their favourite characters or authors.  Heathcliff, who prefers to go by Heath, figured if his mother could name him after her favourite character, then he could name his dog Frank after his idol, architect Frank Lloyd Wright.  I also enjoyed the architecture parts of the story as I, too, am a Wright fan.

This was a story I originally thought would be a Cozy Read for Wednesday.  It has a bit of romance in it (and broken hearts) and was certainly a fast read.  But given the mystery and possibility of a murder and a suicide, it kept me on the edge of my seat and I decided it would definitely be a good candidate for the mystery category.

I was intrigued by the name of the town, Folly, and ended up searching it out on the Internet.  Folly’s Beach is a real place off the South Carolina coast, one of the barrier islands, and the FBI did round up German spies all along the east coast after Pearl Harbor.  I liked the love of books some of the characters had and how people were named after their favourite characters or authors.  Heathcliff, for example — who prefers to go by Heath — figured if his mother could name him after her favourite character, then he could name his dog Frank after his idol, architect Frank Lloyd Wright.  I also enjoyed the architecture parts of the story as I, too, am a Wright fan.

I will definitely be reading more books by White.  I enjoyed her descriptive writing which put wonderful images in my mind without being overly flowery.  I liked her characters and the structure of the novel, how Lulu bridged the time periods and finally held the last clues to solving the mystery.  White has many stand alone novels, a Tradd Street series, and other books that take place in Folly.  * * * *

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If you, too, are a fan of mysteries, I hope you’ll not only enjoy my Monday posts but will contribute by publishing your own Monday Mystery, mention my meme, then come to my blog, comment on your mystery (or mine) briefly, and include the link directly to your mystery review.  You can also copy my MMM badge to your post or your sidebar.  (Links to books are Amazon affiliate links!)

About mysm2000

Having taught elementary school for more than 25 years and been involved in many amazing technology and curriculum projects, I find I've developed a myriad of interests based on literature I've read and music I've heard. I've followed The Wright Three to Chicago, Ansel Adams to Colorado, The Kon Tiki Expedition to Easter Island, Simon & Garfunkel lyrics to New York City, Frank Lloyd Wright to Fallingwater, Pennsylvania, and have only just begun.
This entry was posted in Adult Book, Easy Read Novel, Historical Fiction, Meme, Mystery, Opinion, Romance and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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