From Goodreads: On Amelia Island, Florida, 36-year-old journalist Fawn Cortez is adjusting to life in her new surroundings as she prepares for her upcoming marriage. Her father’s tragic death earlier in the year still haunts her. For decades, Juan Velarde Cortez obsessively hunted a legendary treasure, and his passing has left unresolved feelings for Fawn. Now, when a series of grisly killings rock the small island community—each victim’s face has a distinct signature—Fawn suspects a bizarre connection between the murders, her father’s quest, and the death ritual of an infamous Seminole Indian from the 1800s. A cigar box that once belonged to her father appears to hold the key. As Fawn draws closer and closer to solving the 200-year-old puzzle and determining the killer’s identity, she will be forced to unravel historical clues that will lead her on a harrowing journey. Time is quickly running out as a serial killer is watching and waiting in the shadows. Will Fawn discover the truth before she becomes the next victim?
With historical links and storyline twists, this follow-up to Gary Williams’ & Vicky Knerly’s debut novel, “Death in the Beginning,” engages all the necessary elements of and delivers a fast-paced, heart-pounding thriller.
Three Keys to Murder is a riveting roller coaster ride, complete with non-stop action, intriguing characters, and an amazing plot line. The beginning of the novel immediately pulls the reader in as an underwater explorer, Juan Velarde Cortez, finds what he believes to be a long lost treasure, peaking readers’ interest as he unseals the large metal box and unleashed something unexpected. This sets the pace for the novel as it then jumps ahead three months, focusing on Cortez’s daughter Fawn, as she attempts to deal with not only her father’s death, but also the mysterious circumstances surrounding the recent deaths of some inhabitants of Amelia Island. As a journalist, Fawn is drawn to the story surrounding the murders and, as the novel unfolds, Williams and Knerly produce an amazing storyline with multiple twists and turns, keeping the reader enamored with the novel from start to finish; it’s impossible to put down.
Fawn is a very strong, well-written character, vibrant and full of life. While she has her own personal demons, Fawn sets her focus on the facts surrounding the multiple murders and begins sleuthing around Amelia Island and St. Augustine, connecting historical accounts and unearthing artifacts. I love a good murder mystery, and Three Keys to Murder does not disappoint! Fawn is an extremely smart, strong female lead, and piecing together the mystery alongside her and her trusty sidekick Bailey was an intense experience that, I think, will be even more fun the second time around; I already can’t wait to read this novel again using the knowledge I now have.
Williams and Knerly have a way with words and are able to cast suspicions on all the characters as events unfold, leading the reader to believe certain characters are involved in more ways than one. This was really exciting because the authors were able to make me feel a certain way towards a character, only to cause me to change allegiances as the story progressed. With its many twists, I never saw the identity of the murderer coming, especially as Williams and Knerly were able to cast doubt and suspicion on many of the characters. I love books where I find out that the answers have been in front of me the whole time and that I just didn’t make the connections because the authors are superb mystery writers. It was also amazing to find that while I was thinking the plotline was driven in one direction, something completely different was actually taking place, and I was shocked by the revelation of what was really happening throughout the story.
One of the best parts of the book, aside from everything mentioned above, is that the setting and background for this fictional story is, in fact, derived straight from history. The amount of time and research that went into creating this novel is more than evident as Williams and Knerly explore the past while creating an enthralling storyline. Though the story is fictional, the places and people really do/did exist, and I’m always in awe of authors who are able to take facts and produce a stunning fictional story, capturing the reader’s attention from start to finish. I now want to take a trip to Florida and visit the different settings of the story on both Amelia Island and in St. Augustine. The fact that Williams and Knerly were able to take facts and flesh out a fictional story surrounding them is extremely intriguing, and finding out that these places really exist, and that the characters mentioned, such as Chief Osceola and Black Caesar, were real and are accurately portrayed, is amazing.
Three Keys to Murder, with its perfect flow and explanations behind each hidden artifact and the puzzle pieces, reminded me very much so of how Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code flowed. The storylines between these two novels are not similar in any way, but the sheer writing genius is evident in both. Up until now, I’ve always thought that The Da Vinci Code had the perfect flow for a murder mystery novel, sending the lead character on a quest to connect history with artifacts, but in retrospect, I think Three Keys to Murder might just top The Da Vinci Code. Thus, if you’re a lover of The Da Vinci Code, then Williams’ and Knerly’s novel is a must read! Five stars.
I received an ARC of this novel from the authors in exchange for an honest review. Three Keys to Murder releases tomorrow, April 1, 2012.