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riptide cover

A New Case, An Old Hurt

Author: Dawn Lee McKenna

I’m deeply missing my yearly family beach vacation time, so a return visit to the Forgotten Coast Series during this seemingly endless pandemic was a must. We left Maggie in Low Tide, down-and-out about her failure to save a needy woman and conflicted about the suspicious suicide of Gregory Bourdreaux, a man who once raped and nearly killed her when she was a teenager. The investigative buzz around Gregory, despite a strange apology letter, had started to slowly go away, but after a grisly new find Maggie is once again chasing a possible killer, and she’s not entirely sure if justice will be served by catching and punishing him. What makes it worse: Gregory’s kingpin uncle, the infamous Bennett Boudreaux, is becoming an odd friend and companion, further compromising Maggie’s emotions and her investigation.

Meanwhile, Maggie has remained mum about her past with Gregory and her strange feelings for his dangerous uncle as she pursues a slow and beautiful romance – the first after her painful divorce. Like everything in Maggie’s world now, the romance is hardly straightforward; she has feelings for her boss, the town sheriff, but there is so much she cannot open up and tell him. With the new investigation, her reticence continues, and she may be in too far now for help.

Riptide continues the slow burn of McKenna’s series. It is soap-operaesque, these mini-vignettes which continue the main story and solve sub-mysteries along the way. This time, we stay in Apalachicola as Maggie begins her second investigation, propelled by finding a severed foot that confirmed as belonging to Gregory’s missing friend. The sadness swells again, and it is not just Maggie’s past that is filled with grief. Her relationship with her ex-husband and lifelong best friend, strange as it may be, is about to hit a fevered pitch that will leave readers reeling, pummeled by the new grief of Maggie’s strange life and dual loyalties. It’s a gut punch, a brutal curveball that further confuses Maggie’s choices and those she trusts.

Maggie hardly makes good decisions, either in Low Tide or in this installment, but she remains infinitely relatable. Her relationship with her kids, with her boss/boyfriend, and with her potential enemy, Bennett Bourdoux, are steadily leading to something that we feel will be fraught with anguish and mixed emotions from all involved. It’s intoxicating and yes, there is some cozy, despite the more gritty nature of this series (you know, severed feet, drug dealers, and explosions). The cozy here is mostly for the brief moments of romance and the occasional comic relief of Maggie’s adorable rooster, Stoopid, in all his wing flapping glory. Riptide, though, is mostly serious, and while nothing major gets resolved here (although one new very big, very bad problem and one unforgettable hurt get added) we can feel the pace escalating, the payoff becoming more complicated, the upcoming decisions gaining weight and momentum.

Something about this world: the writing, the characters, the problems, compels me to keep reading and to be emotionally involved and attached through every moment of disaster and every quite, soul searching glance at the ocean. The series is a slow burn, yet it is magnetic, twisted, and ultimately charming. I’ve already bought What Washes Up and am both thrilled and terrified to see where all this escalation leads and if the true boogie man is who we think.

– Frances Carden

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Frances Carden
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