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Book Review: Magnolia Moonlight by Mary Ellis

by Sandra Ardoin


Magnolia Moonlight
Harvest House

I’ve reviewed the previous books in the Secrets of the South Mysteries series by Mary Ellis. (Click to read the reviews for Midnight on the Mississippi and What Happened on Beale Street.)

Today, it’s Book Three, Magnolia Moonlight, set in both Natchez and Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.

After two years of marriage, Nate, owner of Price Investigations, and his wife Isabelle finally take a honeymoon with the help of their friends. Nate leaves the office and a new case to his employees Beth Kirby and newby, eager-beaver PI Michael Preston.

Beth is a former detective with the Natchez PD and a little rough around the edges. She left the department under less than favorable circumstances. Natchez is the last place she wants to be, but she’s back to supervise the investigation into the death of her former pastor. The man’s widow isn’t pleased by the suicide ruling and hires the agency to get to the truth.

Michael Preston is an accountant by training who decided to break free from his nerdy life and lend his skills—among them, forensic accounting—to Price Investigations. As the result of a personal loss, he’s determined to change his life.

Working twelve- and thirteen-hour days might have provided advancement and generous raises at his prior job, but it had allowed little time for extracurricular activities.

And that had made him physically weak, emotionally immature and socially inept. At least, according to his former fiancée. And how could he not believe the woman he loved?

While Beth and Michael look into a questionable charity, Nate and Isabelle’s honeymoon in Bay St. Louis becomes far from romantic when Isabelle spots her ex-husband leaving a casino and the couple is swept up in his troubles.

I’ve enjoyed this whole series. These books aren’t your typical private investigator stories, so don’t look for a lot of gun play or nail-biting climaxes. They can be read out of order, but I highly recommend starting with the first book and moving on from there.

For Magnolia Moonlight, the author sprinkles humor throughout the dialog that gives the book a lighthearted touch. In fact, at times, it was downright funny. At the same time, the characters are everyday folk trying to figure out life just like the rest of us, with issues both spiritual and worldly. Although I love the slightly-curmudgeon Nate, and it was interesting to continue with his and Isabelle’s story, the real mystery remains in Natchez with Beth and Michael.

Beth could be a little arrogant at first, but through her character arc she settles into being very likeable. Michael isn’t your typical “hero” material, but I cheered him on as he grew, because he’s just so doggone sweet. And I should say I was surprised by the “who” in the who-dunnit.

So, if you’re looking for a book that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but provides an appealing mystery (or two), along with characters and settings you want to get to know, this one should work for you.

Apparently, next up, we’re goin’ to Savannah! Woo-hoo!

If you’ve never visited the South, where is the one place you’d like to go? If you have visited (or live there) where is someplace you could go over and over again?




As an author of heartwarming historical and contemporary romance, Sandra Ardoin engages readers with page-turning stories of love and faith. Rarely out of reach of a book, she's also an armchair sports enthusiast, country music listener, and seldom says no to eating out.

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