Before She Left by Alison R. Solomon is a contemporary mystery set in Gulfport, Florida. It is book two in the Gulfport Mystery Series, but can be read as a stand alone – that’s what I did!

Breezy awakens to find her fiancee, Ella, hasn’t come home. Will a local detective believe that Ella’s disappearance is indeed suspicious, or will she just assume Ella has tired of Breezy’s antics? Soon, Breezy learns that partners in other couples have disappeared. What is going on in Gulfport?

The Characters

The book’s three main characters are Breezy, Max, and Ella.

Breezy is fully aware that she’s over the top and a bit out of control, even on a normal day. Ella is the love of her life, and Breezy’s already precarious world is turned completely off-kilter when Ella disappears. Maintaining credibility with the police and confidence in her own relationship requires a monumental effort from Breezy.

Max is a Gulfport police detective by way of Philadelphia. Her gut tells her something fishy is going on, but she fears looking like a chump to her colleagues if she swallows Breezy’s concerns hook, line, and sinker.

Ella is a mysterious character at the start of the novel, but we eventually find out the traumatic truth behind her disappearance.

The Writing Style

The novel alternates first person narration from each of the three main characters. The style reminded me of Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone mysteries, which are some of my favorites of the genre. Suspense levels start out mild but ratchet up as the book nears its conclusion. Violence is mild. Several LGBT+ characters are included, but sexuality is not the primary focus of the story.

The Pros

Solomon doesn’t take the easy path of using likeable, stock lead characters here. It’s a bold move to write Breezy, a primary character and the first narrator, with a diagnosed personality disorder. However it works well to build tension and leave the reader guessing.

I also thoroughly enjoyed the setting of Gulfport, Florida. The humid, beachside town added a great atmosphere to the story.

The Cons

There was a lot going on in the story, and I would have preferred to hear more from Max. Perhaps in the series’ next installment…

The Conclusion

You should buy this book if you enjoy armchair mysteries featuring unconventional leads.

Excerpt from Before She Left by Alison R. Solomon

It was quiet here, almost eerie. The wind was too strong for anyone to be out sailing or kayaking. Snowy egrets and great herons perched on the thin branches of slash pines and she wondered how such enormous birds could balance on the slender branches without breaking them. The water surrounding her flowed rapidly. If there were a body floating, it would quickly be pulled out into the bay.

She took one more look at the water, noting several dead fish floating (remnants of the red tide) and a row of ibis wading on their spindly legs, then turned back along the boardwalk. Beyond the mangroves the trail was surrounded by massively overgrown grasses, bushes and trees, all covered in some sort of invasive yellow creeper. If there were a body under there, they’d never find it without destroying all the vegetation and she suspected there would be all kinds of environmental protections against that. They’d have to bring in cadaver dogs.

The path rose ahead of her and she scoffed as she realized this was the ‘hill’ her colleagues had told her about, all 50 feet of it. It was enough of a rise to provide a scenic overlook at the top, where she looked out beyond the bayou into the bay and saw in the distance expensive two and three-story houses built with views that must be to die for. She returned to the marina, this time to an area where a steel table stood with taps and hoses for the fishermen to clean fish. Nobody was there today, presumably because of the deadly algae killing the fish. Three enormous wood storks picked at a couple of dead fish with their heavy, metallic-looking bills, but quickly tossed them away disdainfully. If even the birds knew how poisonous this water was, Max hoped that if Ella had thought of hiding in it, she knew it too.

As Max walked back to her car, she passed the yachts and sailboats, and a sudden thought came to her. Since Ella’s kayak wasn’t in its storage rack, maybe she left Gulfport by kayak and that was why she didn’t take anything with her. It would be an easy way to leave without being detected.

But why would she want to leave in such secrecy? And if she did, where was her car?

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Series

The Gulfport Mystery Series

Timing is Everything

Before She Left 

Bits and Bobs

If you enjoyed this book then you should also look at

Blood, Money, Murder by Jessie Chandler

Note: I received a free review copy of Before She Left by Alison R. Solomon. No money was exchanged for this review. When you use our links to buy we get a small commission which supports the running of this site.

 

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My name is Miranda Lynn, and I am an environmental engineer by day and avid reader and podcast listener by night. I discovered lesbian fiction after my first child was born. It helped me get through the exhausting period of new parenthood when you can sometimes feel like the only adult in the world. As my kids grow, I continue to appreciate how these stories can transport me away from the stress of my day and remind me that I am part of an amazing community. I love writing that propels me along a journey, and have a particular weakness for “ice queen” romances.