Beached (Mer Cavallo #2), by Micki Browning

Eight stars

After enjoying her debut novel, Micki Browning plunges into the depths of the water again for this mystery off the Florida Coast. Dr, Mer Cavallo is a teuthologist by training, but has agreed to work for a dive shop between academic pursuits. While out with a family of clients, she comes across a a floating bale of contraband. Taking it aboard, Cavallo discovers a gold coin from almost three centuries ago. Before she can admire her find, she is attacked by a handful of men who shoot first and ask questions later. Dumping the drugs and pocketing this coin, Cavallo barely makes it ashore, where she can examine the coin a little closer. After turning it in to the authorities, Cavallo does a little digging at the local library and discovers that there is rumoured to be many more of these coins off the coast, rumoured to be part of the Thirteenth Galleon, which is echoed by a man seeking day labour who approaches the dive shack. Trying to learn a little more about this mysterious ship, Cavallo approaches a local nautical archeologist who has made a name for himself with such finds, only to find herself on the wrong end of a cocked fist. With a treasure and many more valuable coins waiting for her, Mer Cavallo wants nothing more than to explore and see what awaits her on the ocean bed, if she can stay alive long enough to tell anyone. Browning has delivered a wonderful novel here that will appeal to those who like their mysteries below water and full of oceanographic settings.

I discovered the series debut when handed an ARC over a year ago and have been keeping my eyes open for this follow-up piece. Browning does well to depict life off the Florida Coast and filling her stories with dive- and ocean-centric details that helps differentiate it from much I have read within the genre. The characters are strong, particularly Mer Cavallo, whose life has taken quite the twist since her last academic posting. She is trying to keep her life in order without letting an old flame burn her again. Her love of the water shows through much of the character development and discussion of her passion, something that Browning captures with ease. With a strong supporting cast, the story flows well and those familiar with the series debut will latch on to learn even more about some of the returning individuals. The story holds water (pardon the pun) and I was pleased to be taken on more nautical and underwater adventures, learning much between parsing through the process of the mystery. Browning has definitely found a sub-genre that suits her well and I would gladly explore more off the Florida Coast if she and Dr. Cavallo have additional stories to offer.

Kudos, Madam Browning, for a strong second novel. I am happy I stuck with this series and can see much coming from your work.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: