As with many of the author’s novels, the story is connected in some way to characters in another of her books. It took me a bit to realize that the main character of Cocoa Beach was the sister of one of the main characters in A Certain Age, a novel that I read and liked very much, despite a slow start. As I read this latest book, I found myself wondering if the author wrote these two books in the wrong order, as Cocoa Beach is somewhat of a prequel.
The novel tells the back story of Virginia Fortescue, the sister of Sophie Fortescue of A Certain Age fame. Cocoa Beach is a mystery novel from the get-go. In fact, the very first chapter is an incriminating letter from the man who will become Virginia’s husband, setting the stage for what might have been a really interesting story.
Except that it wasn’t. Instead, it was a confusing back-and-forth story about Virginia during World War I where she works as a driver and first meets Simon and then about Virginia a few years later in the Roaring 20s when she is trying to figure out who is trying to kill her, and why. Is it her husband? Is it his brother? Most of the time I just found myself trying to figure out what year it was and who was doing what. I found it to be most confusing.
The location was new and different for the author. While many of her novels take place in New York City, Cocoa Beach took place in, well, Cocoa Beach, Florida, as well as Miami, Florida.
As Virginia tries to figure out what is going on, she keeps hearing about what is happening back home in New York with her sister Sophie and her father, accused of killing her mother (part of the plot of A Certain Age). It added to the muddle and confusion of the novel.
I must say that the author kept us wondering until the very end just who were the good guys and who were the bad guys. But Williams pulled a trick that I simply loathe: at the very end of the novel, something happens that ensures that there will be a sequel. It frankly was so badly written that I sat and stared at the book for some time, wondering if I had missed something.
I simply didn’t care for this book. I found it entirely too confusing and silly. That’s a hard pill for me to swallow from an author whom I like so much.
Thumbs down on this one.