In a world where women are constantly judged by their likability quotient, it’s refreshing when a woman—real or fictional—is wholly unconcerned with what people think about her. Such is the case in Sunset Beach, the latest thriller by Mary Kay Andrews. Don’t let the book’s frothy-looking cover fool you. This yarn, part thriller and part coming-of-age story, has way more to it thanks to its heroine, her tenaciousness, and her remarkable IDGAF attitude.
When we first meet 36-year-old Drucilla Campbell—who understandably goes by Drue—she’s at one of the lowest points of her life to date. Her mother recently died of cancer, her ex-boyfriend cheated on her, and she got fired from an awful waitressing job by an exceptionally terrible boss. If all of these things weren’t bad enough, she’s recovering from a severe injury sustained while kiteboarding, a beloved sport she’d been doing for most of her life. She’s forced to embrace a more sedentary lifestyle, and this seems to hurt her more than anything else.
With nothing to lose, Drue moves to Florida’s west coast to take a job at her estranged father’s law firm. This law firm is the kind that involves bus stop and billboard advertisements and promises clients who have been physically injured top representation and a huge cash settlement. Drue’s job involves fielding phone calls from prospective clients to determine whether their personal injury situations are legit and would provide the firm with a lucrative case. It’s a pretty awful job, but Drue desperately needs the money.
To make matters worse, she’s forced to work with her father’s latest wife, Wendy, who is also an old childhood friend of Drue’s. They parted ways on bad terms as teenagers, and they really don’t like each other as adults. Plus, Drue’s father is pushing 70. Talk about awkward.
Then there’s the matter of Jonah, one of Drue’s new coworkers with whom she engages in a one-night stand. She has zero desire to pursue anything romantic with him, but as they get to know each other—and as he makes it pretty darn clear that he genuinely likes her—she reluctantly realizes that he’s a good guy.
On the flip side of all this drama, Drue has inherited her grandparents’ old beach house. Said beach house may be in a decrepit state, but it’s still on the beach, and any romance reader who experienced, say, the so-called Polar Vortex this year just might be overcome with some major real estate envy. Forget about the house’s outdated appliances and its myriad of issues. A beach house is a beach house, and Drue spends a lot of her spare time fixing it up. Her efforts make for some fun reading. (Do you hear the home repair people sing?)
Now, back to Drue’s new job.
Drue soon becomes obsessed with two very different cases, and these two cases are what drive and motivate her throughout the story. One of those is a decades-old cold case involving the disappearance of a local woman. The other, a murder case, is a more recent one that was resolved to a client’s dissatisfaction.
Drue is none too happy with the way the latter case turned out, as it involves the livelihood of a little girl and the grandmother struggling to raise her, and so she makes it her personal mission to dig deeper in the hopes of righting some serious wrongs and getting the child a larger settlement. This doesn’t fly well with Drue’s father, so Drue mostly keeps her efforts under wraps. Also, the time-consuming mystery interferes greatly with her work life and performance, which means more fights with stepmommy.
Drue doesn’t care about any of this, though, as much as she needs to make a livelihood. She’s eager to help this little girl. The result: Drue refuses to cower to anyone’s demands, and while she doesn’t exactly enjoy sparring with anyone in the office, she greets criticism with more of an eye roll than anything else. Her IDGAF attitude is surprising at first, considering she has nothing, but it soon becomes quite impressive. She does, after all, want to help the helpless, and she ends up putting a lot of her own personal time into solving the mystery.
This I-Really-But-No-Really-Don’t-Care-What-You-Think-About-Me attitude also extends to Drue’s life outside of work. She may be broke with a rundown house and a glitchy car and not a whole lot in terms of work experience, but she makes zero apologies for who she is and refuses to let others dictate how she comports herself.
It’s rather refreshing.
So yes, readers can feel free to throw this yarn into their beach bags with the intention of passing the day away in a relaxing manner, but they’ll be pleasantly surprised. Drue may exhibit some pretty sullen and even unnecessarily abrasive behavior at times, but this is exactly what helps her sleuthing and makes the story work. Yes, there is plenty of mystery within this story’s 400-plus pages. Yes, there are plenty of shady characters who will keep readers guessing until the end. And yes, there is romance to cap it all off. But in the end, the strongest point of Sunset Beach is its fiercely independent heroine, one who is determined to help another person no matter the cost.
Sunset Beach is on B&N bookshelves now. The B&N Exclusive Edition includes an essay by the author, and four recipes.