Mystery at Sea Edge: A Monterey Adventure


Must read 🏆

Drenched in mystery and history, this clever HF is also a 'guided tour' of one of the most iconic sites on the entire West Coast. Masterful!

When Wick Farrington and his sister arrive on California’s central coast for the summer, the kids have no idea what mysteries and discoveries await in J. Margaret Bell’s imminently engaging and thoroughly enjoyable historical fiction novel, Mystery at Sea Edge: A Monterey Adventure.

Ocean swimming. Fishing. Hiking. Picnicking. Sight-seeing. Warm summer sun. Cypress-studded hills. Breathtaking coastal beauty. Twelve year-old Wick and his ten year-old sister, Rindy, never imagined they’d find all of the above – and more - during their summer stay in Monterey with their Uncle and Aunt Shelton and their two kids, Les and Laurie. Initially reluctant and cynical, Wick isn’t too keen on the idea of staying with relatives when his Mom and Dad drop him off at Sea Edge, his aunt and uncle’s home. But Mom and Dad have work and other commitments back east. So it's summer in Monterey for Wick and Rindy.

And what a summer it is! After Wick meets Les, Wick realizes he may have misjudged his cousin previously. Upon arrival, things thaw considerably. Wick, Les and Rindy race down to the beach to explore before dinner. They notice a shadowy figure watching them from a dune. Before the trio can track the figure down, it disappears in the fog. (Fog is a staple on the Monterey Peninsula. Trust me on this one. Been there, done that.)

Searching for the elusive figure the next day, Wick, Rindy, and Les find a gold locket entangled on a bush. Then they find an old, weather-beaten “Gingerbread House.” The house belongs to a strange old man named Garcia. Let’s just say that Garcia isn’t exactly a warm and fuzzy kind of guy. He prefers to be left alone.

On a visit to a nearby wharf the next day, Les notices a boy with what appears to be the other half of the gold locket. What’s up with that? Later, the kids rescue the same kid after he’s injured from a fall off a cliff above the ocean. (It was a pretty daring and hairy rescue operation. I was biting my nails. Hi, Wick. You’ll get that if you read the book.) The kids take Joe back to the “Gingerbread House” where he lives. Turns out Joe Fernandez is Garcia’s grandson. Joe’s parents were recently killed and he’s now living with “Gramps.”

The fog and the plot thicken when Wick, Rindy, Les, and their new pal Joe visit a museum. They find a mannequin there with a gold locket that looks just like Joe’s! What’s up with that 2.0? The plot – and the fog– thicken some more when some old letters are discovered inside the Gingerbread House. And also… Oh, wait. You’ll have to read the book yourself to find out what happens next. But lemme tell ya, it’s one humdinger of a story!

There’s also the “Bay of Pines.” California’s first theater. The only remaining house on the West Coast where Robert Louis Stevenson lived. Old letters. In Spanish. Love thy neighbor. An intact family that’s portrayed positively, with kind and loving parents who care about their neighbors, too. (Kinda refreshing.) Pirates! The Pinnacles! Tamales. (And yes, I do know who Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo was. Good to “see” him again!)

This is such an engaging and entertaining read! The author sprinkles enough clues throughout the narrative to keep readers guessing and turning pages without giving away too much too soon. Inside these pages, prepare to be transported into a part of California’s past as this clever combination of mystery, intrigue, and suspense weaves a rich tapestry of historical details about cultures, traditions, civilizations, and events of the past into a suspenseful present. Indeed, Mystery at Sea Edge makes history fun!  

The writing is also top-notch. Characters are well-rounded and full-bodied. You can almost taste the salt air. Feel the chilled sea wind. And hear the fog horns. Older elementary aged readers and up will enjoy this book. Ditto anyone who enjoys a good mystery/whodunit set amidst the postcard-perfect beauty of California's central coast.

Finally, I selected this title mostly because one word caught my eye: Monterey. If you’ve never been to California’s majestic Monterey Peninsula, you are missing out! It’s one of my favorite places in the whole state. So I was delighted to see the author do such a great job of capturing and conveying the eye-popping natural beauty and rich history of this magnificent site. We’re talkin’ Seriously Gorgeous here. So grab a copy of Mystery at Sea Edge. Cuz diving into this book is like having your very own guided tour of one of the most iconic sites on the entire West Coast. Oh yeah.

Reviewed by

Lifelong bibliophile. Library Board Member. Select book reviews featured on my blog and Goodreads, etc. I'm a frank but fair reviewer, averaging 400+ books/year in a Wide Variety of genres on multiple platforms. Over 1,000 published reviews.

Sea Edge

About the author

I grew up in Modesto, CA. Graduate of Ceres High School, Modesto Junior College and Sonoma State University. I majored in psychology and neurobiology. US Army Veteran. worked in a mental hospital, schizophrenia research lab and a hospital. Today I live near Modesto, CA with my 3 children. view profile

Published on August 18, 2023

Published by

40000 words

Genre: Children's

Reviewed by