Homicide in Hatteras by Kate MerrillHomicide in Hatteras by Kate Merrill is a mystery with a captivating support cast and a pile of surprises that will leave you guessing until the end.

In the second of Kate Merrill’s Amanda Rittenhouse mystery series, lead characters Amanda Rittenhouse and her psychiatrist girlfriend Sara Orlando are suddenly thrust into a missing person mystery when one of Sara’s patients, Tammy, disappears. Thinking that Tammy’s mother might have some information on their search, Sara convinces Amanda to go on vacation to the Outer Banks, where Tammy’s mother lives.

Amanda and Sara head off to the Outer Banks with a couple of Sara’s friends, and begin their search for information. Along the way they are helped by Police Officer Paula Aqua and her partner Jo. Despite this, Amanda and Sara get themselves into plenty of precarious situations, and as they get closer to the answers they are looking for, they get closer to danger too. Can Amanda and Sara find out what happened to Tammy before someone gets hurt?

The Characters

Amanda Rittenhouse is the daughter of another of Merrill’s characters, Diana Rittenhouse. Mandy is a metal sculptor, and has a penchant for amateur sleuthing. Sara is a psychiatrist, and Amanda’s new girlfriend. She seems to spend a lot of time psychoanalyzing Amanda, but you definitely get the sense that she genuinely cares for her. These two are obviously the focus of Merrill’s new mystery series, and I wondered if the first of the series gives us more insight into each of them as individuals. They seem to be fearless, and magnets for trouble.

I would have liked to read more of Tammy. With a difficult background, a criminal history and a talent for cake decorating that seems to be her way out of the trouble she’s been in, Tammy is endearing and interesting. While the story centres on Tammy and her abduction, I think there was room to flesh her out a little more, and I hope she features somehow in future Rittenhouse stories.

Police Officer Paula Aqua is an Outer Banks local who instantly seems to connect to Amanda and Sara, and fits the usual butch cop sort of mold. Her partner, Jo, owns the local restaurant and lesbian hang out, and is sweet and generous. In fact, Jo is exactly the kind of woman I like to read about… A pillar of the community, sweeps everyone up in a giant hug, and loves them with food and hospitality kind of woman. I would have loved to see more of Jo, who brings out the softer, sweeter side of Aqua as well. I would happily read a book centred on Jo and the eclectic mix of women who visit her restaurant.

The Writing Style

This story has a whole pile of twists and turns, and the pacing of it is perfect for that. Just when I thought it was safe to put it down, a twist hits and I end up reading for another half hour. There were some interesting revelations throughout, and the conclusion of this book was not something easily foreseen. A good, quick, rainy day sort of read.

The Pros

The strength of this story is definitely the minor characters. Kate Merrill does a fantastic job of writing women that you would like to spend time with and get to know better, and they all have endearing qualities. There is also a twisty sort of plot to this book that really had me paying attention.

The Cons

I found that the two lead characters were less interesting than the supporting characters. If you’re looking for a series to read, this could be problematic, but if Merrill continues to write awesome minor characters in each book, it would be worth checking the others in the series out.

The Conclusion

If you like the amateur sleuth vibe, and enjoy books that feature a diverse and interesting cast of minor characters, this is definitely a book to check out. I enjoyed this book and the way the plot twisted and turned, and happily read it as a standalone, however I would recommend you consider reading the first Amanda Rittenhouse story first, as I felt like I might have understood Amanda and Sara a little more with a bit more background. It was refreshing to see a mystery featuring an amateur sleuth rather than the usual police procedural, and I would definitely read another Amanda Rittenhouse mystery! A solid 4 star book.

Excerpt from Homicide in Hatteras by Kate Merrill

Amanda figured Moby Dyke, her big white work van, would not inspire hubcap thieves, even in mill town, although one of the punks from across the street eyed her as she struggled up Tammy’s front steps with the heavy load of dishes. At least Hamilton the pit bull was polite this time. He must have remembered her from before, because he only growled gently and did not leave his house while she rang the doorbell.

“Anybody home?” She had not seen Tammy’s Toyota on the block, but possibly it was parked back in the alley. She definitely hoped Sonny was not in the house. The last thing she wanted was another confrontation, but maybe the thug would notice her ugly bruise, be overcome by guilt, and leave her the hell alone.

“Tammy?” she called. “It’s Amanda Rittenhouse. I’m returning your dishes.”

When she got no response, she set the box on the turquoise table and rapped hard on the door. Much to her surprise, it was unlocked and swung inward to the open house.

“Tammy?” Her voice quavered, and in spite of the heat, goose bumps popped on her arms. She’d watched her share of horror movies, so she knew this was the moment to cut and run. She still had time to escape the maniac lurking in a closet with a knife or avoid tripping over the dead body drenched in blood, but then she heard music playing down the hall in the kitchen.

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The Amanda Rittenhouse series

Murder at Metrolinas 

Homicide in Hatteras

Bits and Bobs

  • ISBN number: 9781594935916
  • Publisher: Bella Books

Kate Merrill Online

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Note: I received a free review copy of Homicide in Hatteras by Kate Merrill. 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

About the author

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Married mum of two from New Zealand with a love for reading that surpasses her need for sleep.  Love reading books that are exciting, puzzling, twisty and suspenseful.  Always willing to try new authors and take recommendations, and open to discussion about great books with great people.