I discovered a new favorite author, and his name is RC Burdick.

The Margaret Ellen is an ocean-washed mystery, filled with vibrant characters, palpable sea breezes, and chilling suspense. It’s a story that lingers in the reader’s mind for days, conjuring images of windy sky and sea, saltwater-dampened hair, and personalities that spring to life from rapidly turning pages. Like a great movie, it ends too soon.

Karen “Seaweed” Cobia finds herself in a dilemma. Holding water in unsatisfactory relationships, Seaweed knows that something has to change. As the charming and youthful captain of a charter boat sets out to right the wrongs in her life, she finds herself right in the middle of a juicy murder investigation.

Seaweed and her soon-to-be ex-boyfriend, Angus Loman, discover a body bobbing in the waves off Hangman’s Key, an island off the west coast of Florida. Eva Park, a well-known local philanthropist, lies face down in the waves with her hands and feet bound and a bullet through her forehead. Because Seaweed was raised by her sea-loving father, owner of Cobia’s Bait, Tackle, and Charter Service, her resulting marine experience aids in the murder investigation. The grumpy local detective, Myers, reluctantly accepts her help. Nicknamed “Grim Lips”, Myers continues to seek Karen’s help as her respect for her ability intensifies.

As the mystery unfolds, Seaweed is approached by a peculiar woman for help, drawing her deeper into the intrigue. Seaweed tries to balance the life he craves in the ocean with a promise to help the young woman, but instead she is catapulted into a dangerous relationship with the twisted culprit who wants her dead.

The first Mr. Burdick mystery is a masterpiece: the sense of place is vivid and enticing; the scenes are vibrant and tangible. He still tasted the salt from the onion rings; feel the condensation on the coffee table; and he feels the rocking of The Margaret Ellen as he moves through the waves. Burdick’s knowledge of boats, waterways, fishing, and life on the Florida coast is dazzling and lends credibility to the work.

Margaret Ellen is reminiscent of John D MacDonald’s Travis Magee series. As much as I love Travis Magee, I have to say that I felt closer to Burdick’s characters and more confident at the helm of The Margaret Ellen than I did with Magee’s houseboat, The Busted Flush. is that a transvestite?

The natural dialogue is brilliantly set to the rustle of sea oats and the hiss of Austrian pines. The interaction between Seaweed and her father is priceless, emotional and genuine. Evocative of real life, it reminds me of my precious relationships with my three daughters. When I finished The Margaret Ellen, I was left with the paradox of deep satisfaction coupled with a strong longing for more. I was worried about these characters and I want to know what happens next. Mr. Burdick has hinted at a sequel and will no doubt have a long line of readers eagerly awaiting its release!

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