Acquired Book By: Interestingly, I was first contacted in November, 2021 by Mr Wygal’s publicist about his Myrtle Beach Mysteries – however, I was a bit delayed in responding until March, 2022. It took a bit of time to receive the first two books in the series by Mr Wygal and then, I had a few delays of my own this Summer, 2022. He also sent me a copy of “Death Washes Ashore” the second book in the series which is when I realised I needed a copy of the prequel “The Brass Key” in order to better understand the sequencing of the series itself.
I had fully planned to read all the stories shortly thereafter in Autumn of 2022 however, my migraines returned in September and from October 2022 – February 2023 my family and I had gone through over 90+ days of loss (two cats) and medical emergencies with my father who had multiple hospitalisations and stays until he was finally able to be released into a 24/7 nursing care home where he could receive rehab and recovery. Ergo, my readings of this series were delayed due to circumstances rather than anything else which would have delayed me from reviewing the series.
This is another prime example of how publicists and authors alike read through my Review Policy and note the kind of stories I love to seek out to read. Quite a few of the requests I receive are a bit of a miss for me as a reader as they fall outside the realms of what I will accept as a reader or outside my review policy altogether. This is why I left the tweet in my sidebar to alert those seeking reviewers to know this is why we write those pages on our blogs – to help authors, publishers and publicists know our reading sensibilities and preferences. I am celebrating the authors, publishers and publicists today who kindly read those pages and offer us a story we can accept for review consideration.
I received a complimentary copy of “Death on the Boardwalk” and “The Brass Key” direct from the author Caleb Wygal in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.
Why I wanted to read The Myrtle Beach Mysteries:
First off, I should mention I appreciate a wicked good Cosy Mystery — I also happen to have a penchant for Southern Literature. Which is why when a beloved book series by Sherryl Woods became a series on NetFlix, I was dearly thrilled to bits (ie. “Sweet Magnolias”) as that doesn’t always happen. I have loved reading Southern Romances, Southern Literature & Southern Gothic stories for quite a long time now — stories set in the Southeast of the United States have a particular characteristic about them. There is a cultural identity to them but there is also a particular climate – as weather plays a strong role in these stories as much as the infamous Southern hospitality and affection for ‘sweet tea’.
However, I have the tendency to read Southern Fiction (overall) which has full inclusivity of all persons, cultures and lifestyles as sometimes the IRL climate of culture of the South is far different than how it is portrayed in fiction. As most have sorted out over the years, I am a girl who embraces the melting pot of the world whilst I am an LGBTQ+ ally. Thereby whenever I reach for a Southern story, I like to seek out stories which embrace the world as I see the world myself and are not stuck in the past with views which are not contemporary minded.
Another reason I like Southern set stories are the small townes, the slower paced lives and the landscape of the stories where they are set — as the Southeast hugs the Atlantic Coast whilst it also has a firm grip on Appalachia.
A discovery in a Grand Strand consignment store sends Mark and Peggy Whitman, two tourists celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary while staying at the OceanScapes Resort on an adventure. Mark is aging, unmotivated, and hasn't been the same since a heart attack. Peggy has tried to boost Mark's spirits, but failed.
That starts to change when they find an item tucked inside a purchase, igniting an unexpected journey that explores the Grand Strand, a secret romance, and rekindles their love for one another. But to find the secret, Peggy needs Mark to find the drive to help before they have to check out.
Along the way, they will encounter faces familiar to the series, and meet some that have not been seen before, all in the day before Clark Thomas finds a body on his bookstore doorstep.
Filled with Wygal's characteristic humor and fast, fun writing style,
The Brass Key is a delightful entry to the Myrtle Beach Mystery Series.
Places to find the book:
Published by Franklin Kerr Press
on 10th May, 2022
Format: Trade Paperback
My review of the brass key:
Peggy and Mark are your typical tourists who get lost in the experience of visiting a place and set their own timeclock of how they want to spend their hours at their destination. Their a bit eccentrically hilarious, too, as Mark loves collecting knick-knacks which only he understands the purpose of why he collects them whereas Peggy would at least like to spend a bit of time on the sand as they frequently visit an infamous beach resort towne (ie. Myrtle Beach) but spend zero time at the beach itself! Laughs. They draw you into their fold as soon as you meet them – because you nearly presume their speaking a bit out of turn about someone until you realise what the reference is actually about by Mark!
Townes which feature a lot of storefronts and tucked away places to traverse through are my kind of places to travel off to myself. I love whenever you have more shops to wander inside than time allows as there is something magical about becoming lost in the moment and just allowing yourself to wander a bit amiss and afield and see what you can find unexpectedly as you journey through a towne like this one where the past comes back alive through the items which are offered for sale.
Mark’s retirement sounded eerie close to my fathers – wherein both men worked long hard hours and didn’t collect a lot of hobbies over the years. And, of course, by the time they retired, their health afflictions and issues started to occur with gusto. I felt for Peggy, especially as I’ve been living through something similar with Dad and have watched the effect it has had on myself and my Mum over the past several years. A credit to Peggy (and my Mum) she finds ways to workaround Mark’s health problems and still finds ways to curate a bit of joy for both of them along the way. Travelling though was something new for this couple as they had lead such a quieter life together and with their children. That was something that differed from our family as Mum set the standard early-on wherein we’d take a lot of day to overnight trips in and round our state ever since I was a young girl. She found ways to get around my Dad’s job but also curated a way for us to see the state as well. I always thought that was a wicked balance to solve.
I loved how Wygal highlighed travelling where you can stay with a built-in kitchenette – as it is one way to keep a healthy diet but also have a cosy nights inside if you don’t want to go out on the towne you’re visiting. He kept this very contemporary and current, too, as Peggy and Mark received a Wal-mart food delivery! Laughs. I knew it was only a matter of time before I’d read a story which utilised food delivery services in one form or another and in this instance, it felt well with their lifestyle of choice.
Of course, it was over the course of dinner one evening when Peggy and Mark discovered something in their room (which eludes to the title of this short prequel story!) which fancied them a bit of a turn at playing detective. They were also Wygal’s eyes and ears for his readers to become introduced to his version of Myrtle Beach and to give a curious presentation of how the towne was situated and the sights which visitors might expect to find there if they were to visit. It was lovely to see the area as they journeyed around and made the best of their time on their holiday.
The best moment by far for me was when Clark (at the bookstore) invited Peggy and Mark to have coffee and conversation with him at the table! It was one of those unexpected kind graces that you hoped to experience for yourself but don’t oft get the chance to find people that warmly hospitable!
Clark, of course, is the main character in the series – and it was a delightful introduction to who he is as a person and as a member of the community. The only surprising turn for me in the end of this delightful short story is how Peggy and Mark didn’t leave a note or story behind for their family about their adventure on the day we spent with them in Myrtle Beach. It had such an endearing ending – what they found and what it meant for the people in the past – I thought for sure they might have left something behind for their own family to understand their adventure and their discovery but in the end, they left it as an unspoken mystery with only a singular bit of evidence as a lasting clue of their time there. Although, I was curious if there might be a connecting reference in the general series to what they effectively achieved on behalf of one of the oldest residents of the area.
I would definitely recommend reading this story ahead of Death on the Boardwalk because it sets such a lovely tone of entrance into the expanding series as much as Peggy and Mark are the kind of characters which endear you to them quite immediately and leave a mark of joy on your heart.