Book Review: The Newcomer by Mary Kay Andrews

Letty Carnahan may be my favorite Mary Kay Andrews character of all time. She is smart, fierce, protective, and resourceful. Add to that witty, kind, great instincts, and you have a winning and memorable character that I’m low-key mad I can’t be friends with in real life.

The Newcomer, the Mary Kay Andrews novel set to be released May 4, follows Letty in the aftermath of a life altering trauma. After discovering her sister is murdered, Letty remembers her sister Tanya’s warning to her: if anything happens to her, take Tanya’s daughter and run.

When we first meet Letty, she’s just driven from New York to the Florida coast, and is following her clues left by her late sister. She searches for refuge at the Murmuring Surf motel, a relic of days gone by and the last clue her sister gave her. As Letty hides and tries to not only solve Tanya’s murder but also protect her daughter, Letty’s niece Maya, she finds friendship among the staff at the motel and must win over the snowbirds who spend their winters there. The tension builds as Letty discovers just how tangled a web of lies Tanya left her to sort through, with the safety of herself and her beloved four year old niece increasingly in question.

I could not put this novel down. The pacing is excellent, as the tension ebbs and flows with perfection. I found my heart pounding frequently, and wouldn’t be surprised to find a few new white hairs just from reading this book! It gets intense, especially with the safety of a child at stake. Letty is constantly in fear for Maya and herself, as well as mourning her late sister. As she uncovers more and more about Tanya’s secrets, the danger only deepens.

The characters in this book are absolutely wonderful. From Letty and little Maya, who has such a wonderful voice, to local police detective Joe, Murmuring Surf manager Ava, and all zany cast of motel regulars, each character is intricately crafted and believable. The Murmuring Surf is a character unto itself, a beachside motel from the 20th century sandwiched between the condos and resorts so popular along the coast today.

The setting is intoxicating, and will make you yearn to sink your toes into the sand and hear the crashing waves. Though I have to thank Ms. Andrews for including the rougher side of living in Florida and discussing the roaches and sweat inducing humidity, or else I’d likely be Zillow surfing for houses there again! Anytime I’m tempted by her beach portrayals, I just have to whisper to myself banana spiders, banana spiders, until the urge to move back to Florida passes. So I, for one, appreciate the nuanced view of Florida life. But I still miss the beach, and this novel gave me a pandemic-safe way to visit a favorite location, at least in my mind.

I absolutely adored this novel, and can see myself reading it again and again. Like all of MKA’s books, you’ll be hooked from the first sentence and like to forego all productivity until you know how it ends. I’d say proceed with caution, but it is absolutely worth it to shuck responsibility and dive headfirst into this book.

The Newcomer is available for preorder and will be released May 4, 2021. Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for an advanced copy such that I could write this review.

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