I read cozy and historical mysteries, a bit of Paranormal/UF, and to mix it up, I read science and gardening books on occasion.
This book/series is written by the same author that writes the Peach Pies and... series. It makes me smile, because no two series could be so far apart and still be cozy. While Peach Pies and... is sweet, light, and high on fantasy, the Books by the Bay series is heavy, weighted down with pasts of family secrets, tragedies, some abuse, and loneliness.
I don't know why I initially continued to read this series; the first book or two the MC, Olivia, is an ice queen. Each book has seen her become that much more human and in Poisoned Prose she's downright likeable, if not yet the kind of girlfriend most women would love to have. I don't believe they have to be read in order in order to enjoy them, but reading the books in order reveals a secondary story line taking place over the arc of the series: the coming home and healing that allows the MC to find her place in the world, in her community and in her own home, a/k/a The Big Thaw.
I think Poisoned Prose is probably my favorite to date; a retreat for renowned oral storytellers comes to Oyster Bay, and the most famous of them all announces her own coming death at the beginning of her show. A family friend with a dicey past is implicated in the crime and Olivia's writing group starts digging around. Ms. Adams did a terrific job with the storytellers scene; I felt like I was there in the crowd and experiencing the atmosphere.
Olivia and her boyfriend, Police Chief Sawyer Rawlings, are at a crossroads relationship wise, and Olivia throws herself into the mystery to avoid the complications arising from forward momentum. I like them together, and the author does a good job of expressing intense feelings that are realistic for a couple no longer in their 20's or 30's. (I'm guessing they're in the early 40's but it's never stated what age either is.)
The mystery behind Violetta's death was really written well; there are a lot of secrets, clues and the possibility of "treasure" all locked up in the stories she told. Unexpected connections to old friends leaves Olivia re-evaluating just how well she knows anybody, and the ending was expected right up until Ms. Adams thaws a wrench in the works and surprises you with the twist at the end.
I'll admit I'm never going to be on the edge of my seat waiting for the next book in this series to come out, but it is a series I'll always follow; solid, mature writing, with realistic characters makes this book (and series) just that one step above the bulk of cozies being published today.