A tropical paradise seems like the ideal place for amateur detective Sadie Hoffmiller to relax and unwind from the panic attacks that have begun to control her life. But when Sadie accepts the offer to stay at a friend's condo on the island of K'auai, her perfect vacation turns into a nightmare. On a snorkeling trip with the Blue Muumuus, a community group of adventurous older women, Sadie finds herself entangled, quite literally, with the dead body of Noelani Pouha, a local drug addict. The police are convinced they know exactly what happened to Noelani. Reeling from the shock of her own near-drowning, Sadie has no interest in looking for any other possible answers until Noelani's son appears on her doorstep, presenting her with a reason to gather her inner strength, rally her investigative powers, and use what she's learned from her past cases to try and find closure . . . for both of them.
After 18 months of adventure and detective work, Sadie is in need of rest. Her friends and family intervene and send her to Kaua'i for a couple of months. Instead of going out and finding adventure, Sadie finds herself staying at home and hiding away because of panic attacks, still fearful that someone is trying to kill her after her harrowing experiences in Pumpkin Roll. On the day that she does go out with a new friend and tries scuba diving for the first time, she also discovers a dead body.
The normal Sadie would jump right into this investigation, but this new, anxious Sadie wants to stay away from it. Until she meets Charlie, the 11 year old son of the murder victim. Charlie thinks that Sadie is the only one who can help him find out what happened and Sadie is drawn to Charlie and his situation. As Sadie begins to investigate Noelani's murder, she finds her confidence coming back and she realizes that she needs to find closure for herself as well as for Charlie.
Seventh in the Culinary Mystery series, the books really don't stand alone and it's better to read them in order. If I have a pet peeve here, it's that there is a great deal of allusion to what happened in the previous book, Pumpkin Roll, but no explanations or even a brief recount for those just coming into the books or those who hadn't recently read Pumpkin Roll.
Banana Split is a refreshing bit of a departure from the light, funny Sadie Hoffmiller books. It explores anxiety, PTSD, drug abuse/smuggling and the foster care system. It also brings a bit of sobriety to Sadie's world as she must struggle with the psychological effects of her detective work. I loved returning to Sadie's world and I look forward to more of her adventures.
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