It’s been five months since Marvella “Marvey” Harris—the 28-year-old protagonist of Olivia Matthews’ enchanting second Peach Coast Library Mystery, Murder Out of Character—left New York City for Peach Coast, Georgia, in order to become the library’s director of community engagement. Sure, she misses her family, but she adores her new job, and her new friends—particularly indie bookseller Jo Gomez and newspaper editor/publisher Spencer Holt—have made her feel right at home.
Marvey doesn’t think much of it when beloved high school basketball coach Hank Figg is found dead in his house; though it’s peculiar for such a fit, active person to pass at age 30, the police see no obvious signs of foul play. Then, while cleaning up after the library’s Summer Solicitation Drive cocktail party, Marvey discovers a scrap of paper that gives her pause. On it appear four names: the recently deceased Hank Figg, bank CFO Nelle Kenton, bike store owner Brittany Wilson, and Marvey’s good pal (and secret crush) Spencer Holt. Pause turns to panic when, three days later, someone poisons Nelle Kenton. Did Marvey stumble across a hit list? Both Spencer and Deputy Jedidiah Whatley find the notion preposterous, but that just makes Marvey all the more determined to ID the list-writer before he or she strikes again.
Matthews (a pseudonym for author Patricia Sargeant) serves up a heaping helping of literary comfort food with this ebullient sequel to 2021’s Murder by Page One, which enthusiastically champions literacy and libraries. The cast is vibrant and diverse, the stakes are clear and significant, and the neatly constructed plot deftly balances small-town drama with small-town charm. Dashes of romance and gentle humor provide the perfect seasoning.