Tear Down and Die, by Joanna Campbell Slan. Spot On Publishing. 304 pages. Trade paperback $14.99. Kindle $4.99.
This Jupiter Island author just can’t stop. Having built a large audience for her Kiki Lowenstein mystery novels (the tenth in the series is about to appear), she recently started a series in which she brings Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre back to life. “Death of a Schoolgirl,” the first title in that series (and reviewed in this column), won the 2013 Daphne du Maurier Award for Literary Excellence. Now it’s time for Cara Mia Delgatto, spun off from the Kiki series, to have her own mystery series. The series opener is quite promising.
Cara, approaching early middle age, is ready for some life changes. Her parents have both recently died, and her son is entering his freshman year at the University of Miami. An empty nest adult without her mom and dad round, Cara is depressed. Having sold her home in St. Louis as well as the family restaurant she had worked in for many years, Cara is ready for a major second act in her life. Maybe Martin County on Florida’s Treasure Coast, a place she knew well when growing up, is the place to have it.
But it holds some bad memories. She’s not ready to see Dick Potter, her cantankerous grandfather who lives in Stuart; however, when her car threatens to break down on her way from St. Louis to Parent’s Weekend at her son’s college, she has no choice but to stop at Poppy’s run down gas station. It’s as if destiny were calling through the car’s threatening noises.
The meeting with her grandfather is not pleasant, but it’s at least tolerable. Cara needs a place to stay and time to sort out her feelings. She is attracted to the abandoned building that was once an attractive business – The Treasure Chest – whose owner specialized in antiques, paintings, and other items, many of which are still lying about in disrepair and disarray. When her identity is mistaken by the real estate agent, Cara impulsively signs the contract.
Soon after, literally stepping into her new venture, she finds the realtor on the floor – dead. Now we have a mystery, and Cara is an obvious suspect.
Along the way, Cara is making more friends than enemies. Skye Blue, a waitress at nearby Pumpernickel’s, offers Cara a temporary place to stay and is generous with her time and with information about Stuart. Once Cara decides to operate her own business in the building, the most valuable former employee – MJ Austin – shows up to resume her position and become another good friend.
The store and these two women, as well as Cara herself, are afforded second chances. The business itself is focused on second chances – refurbished and repurposed objects as well as new products fashioned from throw-away materials.
To read the full review, as it appears in the July 2, 2014 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the July 3 Naples, Bonita Springs, and Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Tear Down