“Life and Death on Siesta Key,” by Sheila Marie Palmer. CreateSpace. 368 pages. Trade paperback $14.99.
This sequel to “Life and Death on the Tamiami Trail” (2012) continues to explore the Sarasota of the mid-1980s in meaningful contrast to the almost vanished community as it existed some thirty years earlier. The author’s (and lead character’s) nostalgia for the kinder, simpler time hovers over the arena of corruption, greed, and violence that Sheriff Bernadette (“Bernie”) Davis contends with as the chief law enforcement officer in her county.
Nestled between to hi-rise condo buildings on Sarasota’s Siesta Key is a private home that has withstood the assaults of the developers. Its resident, a blonde beauty named Sally Keith, has been murdered there. A strong circumstantial case exists against her Sally’s boyfriend, Danny Dean, who happens to be not only the county administrator, but also a man whom Bernie had briefly dated before meeting her husband, DeSoto County Sheriff Buck Davis. Now Bernie, garbed in a maternity outfit, must leave the ranch house headquarters of the cattle and citrus business her husband owns and get to work. Mr. Dean will speak with no one but Bernie.
Dean was found with the murder weapon in his hand – a gun he had given Sally for protection. He swears that she was already dead when he arrived.
The investigation begins with attempts to know more about Sally and a search for witnesses. The latter brings Bernie to knocking on condo doors, visiting a nearby shopping area, and meeting up with a bunch of witches whose new moon and full moon ceremonies take place at the nearby beach. Bernie appoints Detective Ike McDuffie, a childhood friend whose career is stalled, to be her partner on this case.
Tracking down Sally’s past takes Bernie to snowbound St. Peter, Minnesota. Here Bernie discovers facts about Sally’s background, including childhood troubles, abuse, and several years in a mental hospital. Her files include a photo of Sally as a young woman who had been raped and beaten – then a similar photo of another young woman turns up. While Sally had straightened out her life and become an ER nurse in Sarasota, perhaps her tormented past had caught up with her, leading to her death.
Sheriff Bernie finds her own life threatened when she gets too close to the truth. . . .
To read this review in its entirety, as it appears in the October 1, 2014 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the October 2 Naples and Bonita Springs editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Siesta Key