With few exceptions, characters in mysteries change and grow throughout the series. Not only does that reflect real life, but it also allows authors to stretch their storytelling skills.
Elaine Viets' entertaining Dead-End Jobs series started with Helen Hawthorne taking low-paying, off-the-grid jobs following a horrific divorce. Now happily married and a partner with her husband, Phil Sagemont, in their detective agency, Helen is back to using her intelligence instead of just trying to survive. She still has to take those dead-end jobs, but now she does it so she can gather evidence.
In Board Stiff, her 12th outing with Helen, Viets delivers a unique look at South Florida's tourism industry through the small beachfront companies that are its lifeblood.
Helen and Phil are hired by the owner of Sunny Jim's Safety First Parasailing and Stand-Up Paddleboarding, located on the shores of the fictional Riggs Beach. Sunny Jim believes his business is being vandalized by a restaurateur who wants Jim's prime spot for a parking lot, and he thinks that the murder of a tourist on one of his boards is part of the plan to get rid of him.
Viets, who lives in Fort Lauderdale, perfectly captures the attitude and flavor of a Florida beach. For Floridians, Board Stiff is a look at home. For those who live elsewhere, it's a vicarious Florida vacation.