book cover of   On Folly Beach   by  Karen White Title:  On Folly Beach
Author:  Karen White
Release date:  May 4, 2010
Publisher:  NAL Trade
Pages:  416
Genre:  Adult fiction, Mystery
Source:  Publisher

Emmy Hamilton has only heard of Folly Beach in stories from her mother before she decides to buy the local bookstore, Folly’s Finds.  She is hoping that moving to a new place and having a new purpose in life will help her move on after the loss of her husband in Afghanistan.  When she arrives at the book store and begins setting in to her new position as owner of the bookstore, she finds a bunch of love letters hidden in old books.  As she sets her mind to unraveling the mystery of what these letters are really about, she realizes that several of her new friends on Folly Beach might be related to the authors, and they might just know how to tie up the loose ends of the mystery within.

I only became familiar with Karen White’s work once I began blogging, but I’ve come to find that she is an excellent mystery writer.  Her mysteries are not simply mysteries – they are often delightful reads with wonderful characters and beautiful writing. On Folly Beach definitely lived up to the expectation I’ve come to have with her books.   This is an absolutely wonderful novel and I think it may be my favorite of Karen White’s so far.

My favorite thing about this novel is, hands down, the sense of place that White conveys with her writing.  I could literally smell the salty ocean air of the beach, visualize the small town where everyone knows everyone else, and I truly felt transported to Folly Beach every time I picked up the novel.  I’ve noticed that White does this particularly well in her books, but On Folly Beach stands out especially in this respect.  Perhaps it’s because I love the idea of beach towns so much, but honestly – the sense of place alone won me over.

Luckily for readers not so infatuated with beach towns as me, there’s more to the novel than the beach itself.  Emmy is a fantastic character who is easy to love, easy to root for, and easy to believe in.  She is destroyed by her husband’s death, yet finds it within her to make a drastic move to another part of the country and start fresh doing something completely new – owning a bookstore.  She discovers the love letters and immediately craves the knowledge of what really happened to the two lovers.  And instead of just being curious about them, she actively searches for answers.  She also quickly makes friends with some of the locals, even developing a possible love interest, and I love that White was able to balance Emmy’s authentic grief with her very real feelings of needing to move on with her life and meet someone new.

The story goes back and forth in time between Emmy’s story in the present day and Maggie’s story in the early 1940’s.  I loved reading Maggie’s story because it was clear that Emmy and Maggie were somehow connected, and the more I read of Maggie’s chapters, the closer I knew I was getting to finding out how.  Maggie was a great character, too, although I’m not sure I liked her as much as I liked Emmy.  I did enjoy the historical aspect of the novel – I am fascinated by stories about civilian life during wartime, and as much of Maggie’s story was related to how the war affected their family, On Folly Beach definitely fit that bill.  And the mystery about her was just icing on the cake!

I’m so happy I’ve continued to read Karen White’s novels because I am just so impressed with her work.  I loved On Folly Beach and I truly can’t recommend it enthusiastically enough!