Title: Shadows by the Lighthouse
Author: Melissa Puritis
Genre: Middle-Grade Mystery
Welcome to Summerset Island, where the sand is golden and murder looms on the horizon.
Summerset Island’s lighthouse is a beacon for beach lovers; the sand is golden, the sea glistening, the locals welcoming, or at least welcoming to the visitors who are wealthy enough to stay. Avery Fowler isn’t going to Summerset Island for a chance to work on his tan, though. His father is now Summerset’s Chief of Police, so thirteen-year-old Avery must leave his old life behind and start over in this North Carolina town. The only reason he is giving this a chance is the promise his father made; this job would be slower and safer. But when a police officer is murdered, that promise dies too. Avery, wanting justice for the first person on the island who welcomed him, searches for the truth with the help of his new friends. Those friends come with their own struggle, though, as Avery wonders if he can trust them and where his place will be on the first day of school. Being thirteen is pretty complicated. He's told to just be a kid, just go play, but Avery wants to show that kids can do more than play; sometimes they can be the ones who save the day.
Moving to Summerset Island is a big deal for Avery but murder is not on his agenda of fun. Avery isn’t sure what to make of this move. He has to leave his friends behind and start over in a small town. The only reason why he’s giving it a chance is the promise his father makes. As Summerset Island’s new chief of police, he should be home more and that makes Avery happy. Avery befriends two local boys, and they have a great time hanging out. But when a police officer is shot and killed by the lighthouse, Avery’s innocent world is shattered. Instead of listening to adults telling him to be a kid and leave the murder investigation to grown-ups, Avery and his friends want to solve the case. The more they investigate, the more danger Avery and his friends are in. Can Avery bring the murderer to justice before it’s too late?
Shadows by the Lighthouse is a delightful middle-grade mystery from start to finish. I connected with Avery and his plight. It’s never easy to move and start a new school but it’s even worse when you’re his age. I have to give credit to Melissa Puritis for writing any authentic POV. Shadows by the Lighthouse read as if the author were a young man and added depth to the story. The descriptive narration was deep and transported me to the small beachside town of Summerset Island. The plot moves at an excellent pace with intriguing characters, a suspenseful storyline, and a mystery to solve. There were so many times I found myself comparing Shadows by the Lighthouse to classic mystery stories like the Hardy Boys. I loved every minute of this mystery and I look forward to reading more from Melissa Puritis. If you’re a fan of middle-grade mysteries, you’ll want to read this gem. Brilliantly written with equal parts mystery and adventure, Shadows by the Lighthouse will keep you guessing until the end. Highly recommend!
My Rating: 5+ stars
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When author Melissa Puritis created a mystery story for her eighth-grade language arts class, she was hooked. Years later, no need to discuss how many, she has published a thrilling murder mystery for middle-grade readers, Shadows by the Lighthouse, inspired by a crime that occurred in a North Carolina beach town right around the time she was in middle school, and which remains unsolved to this day.
Melissa believes a good story is one that makes a reader feel something and relate to its characters. With her own book, Melissa fell in love with her characters, many of which are based on people in her life. She hopes her young readers will come away from her book realizing that we all feel out of place sometimes but, with faith in ourselves, we can make amazing things happen.
When she isn't writing page-turning mysteries for kids, Melissa enjoys reading, listening to true-crime podcasts, and running. She and her son, Avery (fun fact - also the name of the thirteen-year-old protagonist in her book, per his request), spend their time together on hikes and adventures, playing board games or soccer depending on the weather, watching Carolina Panthers games, taking guitar lessons, and, of course, reading.
A middle school English language arts teacher, Melissa and her son live in a small beach town in coastal North Carolina, like her story’s setting. Shadows by the Lighthouse is her debut novel.
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Reviewed by: Mrs. N