USA Today bestselling author Charlotte Douglas is a new author to me, and her Maggie Skerritt mystery series was therefore new to me, as well. Fifty-something Maggie is a retired police office in Pelican Bay, Florida, where she is a partner in private investigation with her fiancé, Bill Malcolm, who was also Maggie’s partner in the police force for many years. Maggie lives in a small condo, and Bill’s “home” is on a boat in the local marina, although the couple often spend the night together – either at her place or his, depending on what is more convenient for their schedules. Maggie loves Bill, but she is a bit hesitant to jump into marriage - even though she is a grown woman.
Mystery encompasses the main part of this book; when a young woman is brutally murdered in Tampa, Maggie and Bill become involved in the case by assisting the police. The murder appears to be linked to some child murders that remain unsolved from Maggie and Bill’s days on the police force, and they both desperately want to find the killer in those cold cases. A newspaper clipping of a photograph of various politicians was on the latest victim when she was murdered, and Maggie and Bill (along with the police) begin their investigation by learning the whereabouts of each of these men during the night of the murder. When a politician is murdered, the case heats up, and Maggie is officially engaged by the politician’s wife to perform her own investigation of his murder.
Meanwhile, Maggie has an amusing lower-priority assignment: to retrieve “Roger,” an adorable yet feisty pug dog who was “kidnapped” by an aging soap opera actress’ personal assistant due to a personality conflict - the high maintenance actress has treated her assistant poorly. The “Roger case” lightens up the heaviness of the murder investigations and their possible link to Maggie’s cold cases, although both cases held reader’s interest throughout the book.
How does this mystery fit into Harlequin’s NEXT series, which focuses on women and where their next chapter in life will lead them? Maggie has issues about marrying Bill - she clearly loves him but she is commitment-shy when it comes to walking down the aisle (hence her insistence on a long engagement). Maggie also has a strained relationship with her mother; Maggie apparently never lived up to her mother’s expectations of her, and Maggie learns through a family friend that her mother perhaps secretly harbored jealousy of Maggie’s relationship with her father. When Maggie’s elderly mother is hospitalized after a stroke, Maggie must face up to her current relationship with her mother and whether she should – and whether she wants to - try to make amends before time runs out.
Spring Break is a delightful, entertaining read thanks to Douglas’s definite knack for weaving a good mystery (or two) that keeps readers interested and guessing. I highly recommend Spring Break to mystery fans and to NEXT fans – and I look forward to future releases by this author, future “Maggie Skerritt”books in particular.