Florida Panhandle novel offers murder, romance, and family dynamics

What Washes Up, by Dawn Lee McKenna. Sweet Tea Press. 147 pages. Trade paperback $9.99.

This is book 3 in Ms. McKenna’s 4-part “The Forgotten Coast Florida Suspense Series,” a tightly integrated sequence of books that is best enjoyed and appreciated if read in order. However, from my own experience, What Washes Up packs plenty of punch and has effective coherence when read on its own. If you are looking for intriguing characters, more than a bit of mayhem and crime, well-drawn relationships, and a powerful sense of place, you’ll definitely enjoy this quick read. WhatWashesUp

Lt. Maggie Redman is in a bad way. On leave from the Sheriff’s office while nursing a bullet-blasted hand, and not allowed to work the case of her ex-husband David’s recent death by suspicious explosion, she and her colleague-friends come across an unlikely scene. A wooden skiff is burning, and a fire-blackened man is hanging dead from the front of the cabin. The sight and smell are nauseating.

The corpse is that of one Rupert Fain, a drug dealer suspected of being David’s murderer. David himself had been involved with transporting drugs. Fain had been killed by a small caliber bullet before being hung on the burning boat.

It’s quite a way to enjoy a day that was supposed to be an opportunity for Maggie and her boss/boyfriend Sheriff Wyatt Hamilton to advance their relationship. Their negotiation of that relationship is one of the novel’s many engaging centers of interest. Others include Maggie’s role as mother of a ten year old son and a teenage daughter, who are staying with Maggie’s parents through this course of events, and her relationship with her parents. The family dynamics are sketched with economy and skill, just enough to make them credible, distinctive, and admirable to readers.

A key phrase planted early in the novel is that of someone saying “I’m tired of cleaning up Boudreaux’s messes.” The questions: are these murders Boudreaux’s mess, what else is part of the “mess” category, and is Bennett Boudreaux the Boudreaux being named? His is, after all, the man who said that Fain was most likely David’s killer.



Somehow, Maggie still has a case she can attend to: the severed leg of one Sport Wilmette, found in a shrimper’s net shortly before David’s death. What else ties David, Fain, and Wilmette together? A serial killer?

To read the entire review, as it appears in the September 30, 2015 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the October 1 Naples, Bonita Springs, Punta Gorda/Port Charlotte, Palm Beach Gardens/Jupiter and Palm Beach/West Palm Beach editions, click here:  Florida Weekly – McKenna

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