Cliffhanger (The Belinda and Bennett Mystery Series) by Amy Saunders is first up for a Doon Sleuth and Setting Review.
Ten years after high school and the summer of a “sailboat accident,” old friends and flames return to Portside, Rhode Island for a reunion. One dies by falling off a cliff after a party. The problem is that before dying the victim tells Belinda Kittridge he has something important to tell her, about the decade-old sailing accident. This accident has haunted Belinda Kittridge and her twin brother. The investigation leads to the police knocking on her door. *Note* If you like your cozy mystery without a romance element, this one isn’t for you, although the romance is more sweet than hot.
Overall, the tone of the book is light-hearted and whimsical because the main female character is the same. She has no innate snooping skills learned from tough luck jobs and hard knocks. This sleuth is a very wealthy socialite from both Rhode Island and New York. She has a twin brother, Kyle, and at the beginning of the book they both appear to be aimless drifters relying on their inheritance for subsistence. Belinda’s interest in opening a cup cake shop kept me reading since it appeared she wouldn’t just buy one, but she’d work in it as well. (This I had to see after getting a small taste of her family’s vast wealth).
In this book, Belinda doesn’t get into launching her business, which I found disappointing. She went on one business location hunt and wrote out endless to do lists. After an old friend and admirer is found dead, Belinda teams up with Tate and Parker. Frankly, I wish Belinda had pushed harder on her own at tracking down data and doing interviews, but she’s young and romance was on her mind. Hopefully in later books, the author will turn on Belinda’s snoop gene. I tried to convince myself that Belinda Kittridge could solve the case on her own without her sidekicks, and I had to conclude that she could not. On the plus side, when Belinda found herself alone and in two dangerous situations, she didn’t cop-out and cry, no, her survival instincts turned on, but both times she was rescued.
Her sidekick, Bennett Tate is an ex-policeman, detective, and he left the force over “politics” to form his own business, Tate Security. He and his friend, Detective Jonas Parker bring the crime solving skills to this book. I liked both men. Parker the detective, rides his bike to interview crime suspects, and Tate is a chameleon when he follows people. He also runs the business which can fuel new cases in this series. Bennett is the character that has all the chops for sleuthing, and he steals the scene every time. It’s Bennett’s friend, Jonas Parker that notices his interest in Belinda, and Parker encourages Bennett to get close to her for information. The local force needs help dealing with the wealthy because they have a powerful name-dropping clique around them. Bennett does gather info for his friend, but he also begins to fall for Belinda.
Overall, I liked Bennett and Parker because they stayed in character. Belinda used her family’s wealth as a weapon on one too many occasions, and though the author tried to dilute the sting, Belinda did lose the rich girl with the common touch meme.
The setting for Cliffhanger is Portside, Rhode Island, which I envisioned as having many of the same characteristics as Martha’s Vineyard. The author introduces us to the beach scene at the beginning of the book and there is a constant thread of setting throughout. In Portside the super rich have estates along a road overlooking the ocean and their back yards all end with a steep fall to the beach below. This backyard deathtrap provides the perfect first title for the Belinda and Bennett Mystery Series.
If you’re looking for an easy-breezy romantic suspense tinged cozy mystery then Cliffhanger might be right up your alley. Cliffhanger is currently free at Amazon if you want to check it out before sampling the other books in the series.