Storm Surge by Tamara Ward is an intriguing debut novel with a well-developed plot that touches on many issues: violence against women, stalking, industrial pollution, professional ethics in research, sibling rivalries in dysfunctional families, and, of course, murder. One nice thing about this book, she keeps you guessing who the real culprit is far into the book.
Some of the twists are sharp and well-formed; some go down a little hard, but overall, my head kept turning, looking in different directions for the final clue right along with heroine Jonie Waters. Most major characters are well-drawn and some of their background, incomplete, but I'm sure that's because this is the beginning of a series that has a lot of promise, and we will find out more as time goes by. I intended to come back for a second swim in these waters. Tamara's background as a reporter shines through the trials and tribulations encountered by Jonie as she returns to her hometown of Wilmington after a decade-long, self-imposed exile. Finding a dead body on her first day back doesn't help reuniting with her estranged family.
I want to give this book a "5," but I just can't pull the trigger. It's that close to a must read for mystery readers. Although this is a romantic mystery, some of Jonie's flip-flopping, sometimes moment-by-moment, between the possible romantic entanglements bugged me. A few of the important secondary characters were a bit flat. And though it didn't affect my rating of the story, her publisher needs to take much better care of the formatting of Tamara's next book. As an indie author myself, I understand the arduous task of formatting and publishing a book. A professional publisher needs to treat the products of their rising star better. This is "4" with the surf rising.