Allow me to cut to the chase: of all the independent authors I’ve discovered over the past three years, Dawn Lee McKenna is my favorite, and it’s not even close. If you take my advice and read her Forgotten Coast series, you’ll understand why.
I’m a horror guy. That should be plainly obvious. I also read fantasy voraciously, and on occasion I lose myself in an action-thriller. A mystery/suspense/romance story was a tough sell, even if the setting (Florida is my favorite state to visit) intrigued me.
My doubts didn’t last long. McKenna hooked me immediately, and I went on to breeze through her first three books like a hurricane churning through the Gulf. Now I’m finishing book six, and I hope her series produces many, many more novels. As long as she keeps writing them, I’ll keep reading.
Dawn Lee McKenna’s Forgotten Coast series falls somewhere between suspense and mystery, with multiple veins of complicated romance and family crises flowing under the surface. And hell if McKenna’s wry sense of humor doesn’t infect you with giggles when you least expect it. It’s a complex mix to pull off, yet she does so competently.
Set along the Forgotten Coast of Florida, the series follows Maggie Redmond, a lieutenant with the Apalachicola Sheriff’s Department. Low Tide, the first book in the growing Forgotten Coast series, immediately reveals Maggie’s tragic past, doing so in a way which makes the reader take personal stock in Maggie’s future, even as the reveal horrifies us.
McKenna’s talent lies not just in her plotting, but in her ability to draw readers into the emotional landscapes of her characters. Maggie Redmond is a testament to this skill. Her haunting past, combined with her resilience and strength, makes her a multi-dimensional character we can’t help but root for. Throughout “Low Tide”, Maggie’s journey is not just one of solving external mysteries but also of personal discovery and healing. Her internal battles are depicted with as much intensity as the external ones, giving the narrative a rich, layered feel.
The setting of the Forgotten Coast becomes a character in its own right, providing an atmospheric backdrop to Maggie’s story. McKenna’s descriptive prowess shines here, with every detail of the coast brought to life – from its salt-laden breezes to the picturesque sunsets. This vivid setting enhances the story’s mood, intertwining with the plot’s suspense and the characters’ emotional arcs.
Additionally, the presence of humor amidst the darker and more intense moments is refreshing. McKenna’s sharp wit punctuates the narrative, offering readers moments of levity. This balance of humor with suspense and drama is a challenging one, but it ensures that “Low Tide” is not just a gripping tale but also an enjoyable read.
The characters are the beating heart of the story. Richly developed with layers of complexity, they drive the narrative with their hopes, fears, and secrets. McKenna’s protagonist is both relatable and intriguing, ensuring that readers are firmly on their side, rooting for them through every twist and turn.
Dawn Lee McKenna’s Apalachicola overflows with intriguing, richly-developed characters who fascinate and surprise. They make us laugh and cry, from Bennett Boudreaux, the refined, gentlemanly crime lord, to Wyatt, the sheriff who Maggie is falling in love with. The villains are both dastardly and believable, the supporting cast a varied group of characters with their own secrets and motivations.
The plot melds elements of mystery, drama, and perhaps a touch of romance, striking a balance that keeps the pages turning. McKenna’s pacing is spot on, knowing when to ratchet up the tension and when to let moments breathe, providing readers with a well-rounded and satisfying reading experience. Fans of crime thrillers will also feel right at home.
One thread tying all of this together is McKenna’s obvious love for Apalachicola and northern Florida’s coast. She’s writing from the heart when she describes the town, the sea, the flora and climate. McKenna transports us to a place she loves to write about and tells us one hell of a story, but I can’t divulge more without spoiling the plots.
I’ll tell you one more thing about Dawn Lee McKenna: she is a survivor, much as my beautiful wife is. That she dedicates Awash to her fellow survivors says a great deal about her own character. Facing your own mortality at an early age and living to tell about it not only makes you a stronger person, it brings a life perspective that a talented author can tap and bring into her writings.
McKenna’s perspective allows her to treat the losses of her characters with the sort of compassion and sympathy that most authors struggle with. I once told McKenna that I was brought to tears by the loss of one of her characters. I can’t remember the last time that happened to me in a book. Come to think of it, I rather doubt it ever happened before.
If you’re looking for a great novel to take to the beach, grab your copy of Low Tide on Amazon. Be prepared. If you are anything like me, you’ll quickly grab all the other books in the series. The story only gets better as the series progresses.
Want more beach reads? Check out my review of Armand Rosamilia’s Dying Days series. Zombies on a beach? I’m so there.
Update: It is with deep regret that I share the news that Dawn Lee McKenna left our world after a long battle with cancer. No, she didn’t lose her battle. She won. Dawn is with God now.
In reflection, as the pages of “Low Tide” and the subsequent tales of the Forgotten Coast series turn, it’s impossible to ignore the soul and spirit of Dawn Lee McKenna that breathes through every word. Her unique voice, her wit, and her passion for storytelling have left an indelible mark on the literary world and in the hearts of her readers. The news of her passing deeply saddens us, as the literary world loses not just an exceptional author, but a luminous presence.
As we bid a heartfelt farewell to Dawn, we celebrate her life, her stories, and the profound impact she made. She may have left us in body, but her words, her characters, and her spirit remain eternal. Rest in peace, dear Dawn, and thank you for the worlds you shared with us.