Scarlet at Crystal River (The Haunted Shores Mysteries #3) by Randy Overbeck

All Darrell Henshaw wanted was to enjoy his honeymoon with his beautiful wife, Erin, in the charming town of Crystal River on the sunny Gulf Coast of Florida. But his carefully laid plans go sideways when they discover a hidden painting of two young Latino children, which turns out to be haunted. Is Darrell willing to derail their entire honeymoon in this perfect, quiet corner of the world to unravel the mystery of the children’s deaths?

Darrell and Erin are starting their life together in a quiet spot in Florida. It promises to be a perfect honeymoon, except for a couple of snags. First, Darrell is keeping a secret from Erin, which is never a good way to start things off. Second, they’re walking right into a situation that Darrell would do anything to avoid. Erin knows him better than he knows himself though and things would have been much easier if he would have just trusted her with the truth from the beginning. *sigh*

That’s easier said than done though. Darrell trusts Erin more than anyone, but he wants their honeymoon to be perfect – which means he wants it to stay “ghost-free.” When those ghosts turn out to be defenseless children though, Darrell has no choice but to try to help them find peace. Once Erin realizes what’s going on, she’s in total agreement.

I’ve mentioned before that I picked up this series on a whim. It caught my attention because of the title of the first book – Blood on the Chesapeake. I’ve lived near the Chesapeake Bay all my life and I love reading books that are set in familiar locals. The description piqued my interest even more and I was not disappointed at all with my choice. Crimson at Cape May moved away from the familiar location that drew me in to begin with, but by then I was intrigued by the characters and wanted to read more about them. Scarlet at Crystal River moves even farther away from Darrell and Erin’s home, but it brought me back to familiar territory – in a sense. I’ve visited or driven through other rural locations in Florida, but I also currently live in an area that is home to many migrant workers.

One of the things that I love about The Haunted Shores Mysteries is how “real” the characters are, especially Darrell. He’s not perfect and he knows it. He hates his “gift”, he’s very aware of his OCD tendencies and at times he second guesses his instincts. Erin sees beyond all that though and brings out the best in him and helps him through the rough spots without skipping a beat. She’s his perfect match, even though he feels like she’s too good for him. He’s proven over and over again though that he would do anything to help someone who needs it.

Scarlet at Crystal River is set in 2000 and some things have obviously changed a lot since then, but things are still far from perfect for migrant workers. In this story, the ghosts weren’t the “monsters”, they were the victims and they needed a voice and justice. Although reluctant at first, their plight was impossible for Darrell to ignore. With the help of Erin and others, he solved more than one mystery and came to terms with a couple of his own personal demons.

Scarlet at Crystal River was full of mystery, danger, intrigue and even history. Plenty to keep the pages turning. I’m not sure if there is more to come for Darrell and Erin, but I hope so. I’ve enjoyed watching Darrell grow as a character throughout the series.

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