Swamp Ghosts (2014)
Available in Kindle and Paperback: http://www.amazon.com/Swamp-Ghosts-Marcia-Meara-ebook/dp/B00K0QXLCS
I just finished this book that I really enjoyed (although I like 99.9% of the books I read), Swamp Ghosts. Swamp Ghosts initially won me over as it’s written by a fellow born-and-raised Floridian [though she’s a lot less bitter than I am about the changes the influx of snowbirds and tourists are having on Florida (increasing proliferation of mega-homes and McMansions and an unfortunate, growing trend for perfect, albeit toxic, green lawns) and and yet still manages to capture the essence of the Florida I loved as a child.].
The book is set in a small town called Riverbend that is very evocative of “old Florida” and captures what it was like growing up here (it’s much more than a beach playground, strip malls and multi-million dollar condos, by the way). Captain Maggie Devlin is struggling to keep her charter boat tour business operational when wildlife photographer Gunner Wolfe depends on her knowledge of the local backwoods/back river ecosystem, and hires her as a guide for his next photography quest.
It’s a mystery/suspense book, as is revealed when the residents of quiet Riverbend discover there’s a serial killer that’s come to town. It’s really hard to write about it and not give away any spoilers, but the author has done an excellent job in creating a work that navigates the evil that is disrupting their small-town life, and balances it out with an innocent wholesomeness that I really enjoyed. There’s a definite romantic bent to the book but, to me, it’s deftly woven into the story and doesn’t set off my BS meter or make me squirm in embarrassment (I’m not the most romantic of souls, in case you haven’t realized that by now. *laugh*). I probably liked that balance of innocent charm mixed with dark violence because I can watch the most gory, scariest movie without even flinching, sometimes even finding horror films comical rather than frightening, yet I am a complete softy for stray animals, injured wildlife, turtles trying to cross busy streets, and will always relocate insects rather than squish them.
Meara’s characters have a very contemporary feel; both Gunner and Maggie, for example, are largely free from the typical stereotypes I encounter in this type of book/genre. Maggie Devlin is practical, level-headed, strong, and keeps that strength without falling into the default standby, “I’m depicted as a strong woman but then I get put in a scary situation and I fall apart completely” that I see a lot of writers use. Gunner also comes across as a very contemporary man, one that reflects the evolving gender roles/interactions that also characterizes society today. I only have one little critique. It does seem that Maggie and her best friend Willow (another local businesswoman) are exceptionally primed to pass the Bechdel test, and they almost, but not quite, hit the mark on that front. With how much Meara has taken her characters outside of the typical mystery/suspense tropes, or stereotypes, I really feel like its inclusion could be a real asset to her book, and something I’d like to see in her future works (Her next book is a sequel to Swamp Ghosts, called Hunter.).
Overall, I think Marcia Meara has a real gift for writing books in this genre. I’d recommend giving the entertaining Swamp Ghosts a go! Check out her blog, Bookin’ it with Marcia Meara, and you can also find her on Goodreads.