Once Upon a Seaside Murder – Maggie Blackburn

Cozy mystery is a welcome variation from the standard mystery genre. The focus is on the story, the grim bits happen offscreen, and the setting is interesting enough to be captivating. Who doesn’t like small communities? Well, many people, but to me they’re charming. Alluring. I blame my big city life self here and that house in the countryside I still dream about.

Once Upon a Seaside Murder takes place on an island rather than in the country. The appeal remains.


As the holidays approach, bookstore owner Summer Merriwether learns a dark secret in this second volume of Maggie Blackburn’s Beach Reads mystery series.

There’s no place like home for the holidays, even if home is sleepy, beachside Brigid’s Island, NC. During this season for giving, the town wakes up to a welcome throng of shoppers–and Beach Reads is no exception. But bookseller Summer Merriwether’s Christmas cheer turns to cringing fear when she uncovers a deadly secret about her late mother–a secret someone will kill to keep.

When the local library hosts a cozy mystery panel discussion, Summer learns that one of the authors on the panel based her book on an actual murder that shook Brigid’s Island thirty-five years before. Worse, she soon learns that her dearly missed mother, Hildy, took a disturbingly deep interest in the case, going so far as to collect clippings and keep a journal of the dark doings. This doesn’t jibe with Summer’s memories of her usually cheery mother at all.

Tidings get worse when Summer learns of her long-lost biological family’s involvement in the crime…and still worse when the life of the book’s author is threatened. With the help of Hildy’s plucky book club, Summer puts her scholarly smarts to work on protecting the cozy author and solving the decades-old murder.

But this ghost from Christmas past may still be deadly in the present, and if she can’t find the killer, Summer’s future will be brief.

336 pages
Beach Reads Mystery #2 – may be read as standalone
Cozy mystery
Crooked Lane Books


Cover: Not my thing, not really. I blame the blue hue, it’s too much.


  • Once Upon a Seaside Murder, a novel written by Maggie Blackburn, follows the steps of Summer Merriwether. After her mom’s death—the backstory is featured in the previous book of this series—Summer is in charge of a bookstore called Beach Reads; between a panel discussion gone wrong and her newfound family, Summer has a lot on her plate.
  • Summer is a sympathetic character. It’s easy to identify with her and root for her, for many reasons. The rest of the cast is well-written and full of variety too, spanning from likable Mia and Agatha to less than – see under: Rima. Some, like Cash and Sam, are hard to figure out – thumbs up!
  • Style, structure, and grammar are good. This makes me happy because it’s not something I take for granted, not even in traditionally published books.
  • Despite being the second book of a series and despite the many characters, it’s easy to follow along. Not once I got lost or I had to stop reading to figure out what was going on.


  • The plot is all over the place. The old murder to begin with, but the new mystery surrounding Mimi is a close second: try as I might, I can’t understand why banking everything on Summer’s willingness to sell the bookstore. She’s not related to Mimi, she doesn’t have any personal tie to her, bookish event aside. So? Would you sell your house because a new neighbor you know nothing about went missing or would you go to the police right away?
  • As I said, the old murder reads off. It’s too far-fetched. I can suspend my disbelief to a point. Too much and the story becomes unrealistic.
  • Peg and Lucy. There is a tie or two left hanging and a big question unanswered. 


3 stars on GR.

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