14 April 2016

Review: What Happened on Beale Street by Mary Ellis

Not up to expectations

I had two problems with What Happened on Beale Street. The first was that solving the question of what happened on Beale Street—the murder of Danny Andre—didn’t seem to be the focus on the novel. Instead, it seemed like it was little more than a handy plot device to get newly-licensed private investigator Nicki Price from her home in New Orleans to Memphis, so she could investigate a fifty-year-old mystery in hotel.

My second problem was that I didn’t warm to Nicki Price, and I liked her fiancé, Hunter Galen, even less. This is perhaps my fault, because this is the second book in Mary Ellis’s Secrets of the South Mysteries series, and I haven’t read the first, Midnight on the Mississippi. This Nicki and Hunter, and maybe I’d have liked them better if I’d read the first book. As it was, Nicki came across as naïve and lacking intelligence, while Hunter came off as arrogant and controlling.

Having said that, Nicki and Hunter weren’t meant to be the focus of What Happened on Beale Street (even though Nicki did her best to steal the show, and the climax of her subplot was actually more satisfying than the payoff from the main murder plot, and I did enjoy the scenes where we got to explore the opulent Peabody Hotel).

What Happened on Beale Street centres aroud Nate Price (Nicki’s cousin and boss) and his search to find out what happened to Danny Andre, Nicki’s best friend, a some-time saxophone player in some of the blues clubs on Beale Street. He reconnects with Danny’s sister, Isabella, an old acquaintance from school days, and that provides most of the relational interest in what is otherwise a straightforward mystery novel (well, as straightforward as a mystery novel ever is, with all the requisite twists and turns on the journey to find whodunit).

Overall, while What Happened on Beale Street is a solid mystery novel with a developing romance, it wasn’t as satisfying as I’d hoped.

Thanks to Harvest House Publishers and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about author Mary Ellis at her website.


  1. My book club is reading book 1 in the series later this year. From the description it looks really good. Hopefully it won't disappoint. But after reading your review of this one, I have some doubts. Thanks for sharing.

    1. It could be one of those series you really need to start at the beginning. I didn't actually realise it was book 2 when I picked it up - otherwise I might not have asked to review it.