When my publisher asked me to diversify and write a second series, my heart stopped. In love with The Carolina Slade Series, I could not imagine building a new world with original characters any more enticing, in a setting any more inviting. The parameters? Make the protagonist law enforcement, create some family angst in addition to the mystery, and finally…place the entire series in my favorite locale of choice in South Carolina. My mind jumped to my getaway haven, Edisto Beach.
Located about 50 miles south of Charleston, is the major Edisto Island. You feel the relaxation the farther you take the two-lane roads from the peninsula across the various islands separated by tributaries, marsh, creeks, and bays, toward the coast. This is not your commercial beach trek. You almost feel a hush as you approach, because these live oaks dangling yards of thick, Spanish moss, the white tufted egrets, porpoise, crabs and lush growth of myrtle and palmettos, continue to mirror the Edisto of old, back to the 1600s.
Edisto Island is huge as far as South Carolina islands go, 68 square miles, but it’s a precious commodity maintained and protected. Even the rice field dikes of the 1700s are still in existence, along with three hundred year-old plantation homes that represent the Golden Era of Edisto’s history, when wealthy landowners and their secluded world across the Edisto River almost put Gone with the Wind to shame. You’ll find no commercialism short of a family-owned store here and there. Small single-family homes lay tucked behind the oaks and azaleas that practically grow wild. No franchises or motels. No taxis or buses. You can breathe the air. You disappear in time.
At the tippy-toe end of Edisto Island is Edisto Beach, a sliver of a town again without hotel or strip malls. Few commercial enterprises. No chains. No franchises. Edisto Beach proper covers maybe five miles of sand, but that’s plenty. Nowhere along the coastline of the state will you find a stretch of shore so secluded, peaceful or condoning for those who just want to get away and watch the tide. The only partying takes place in your beach house unless someone creates an impromptu gathering at Whaley’s, McConkey’s or Finn’s, none of which can handle much of a gala. The dress is always informal, and societal tiers melt away since everyone wears shorts, sundresses or bathing suits. You shop at farmer roadside stands or the lone BiLo.
In my years of visiting Edisto, I’ve learned that the year-round natives gravitated there for a purpose—to leave the rat race behind. The unspoken understanding is that everyone has left another life, and that the present is all that’s important. They are at the tip of the world, happy, living the live-and-let-live life. Seclusion is key.
Why visit Edisto? To get away, pure and simple. What is there to do on Edisto Beach and its surrounding area? Plenty.
The main interest of the region is wildlife. Surf fish along the beach or head out to deeper water where you can catch just about anything your heart desires for dinner. Shrimp or crap the waterways. Take a tour to enjoy the sea life. Don’t dare come without a camera, or you’ll miss the most gorgeous sunsets and undisturbed nature vistas you’ve ever seen. Canoe, kayak, bike or walk. The beauty is unsurpassed.
Visit Botany Bay, a 3,300 –acre wildlife preserve traced back to Bleak Hall Plantation and Sea Cloud Plantation in the 1700s. The combined plantations grew more cotton than any other plantation in South Carolina. But what Botany Bay is noted for today is its often photographed scenic driving paths with live oak canopies and the ancient live oak forests that go right to the beach, many of the trees dead yet remaining, reaching up to the sky with gnarled fingers in prehistoric design. People do not swim on that beach. They stroll, marvel and whisper, as if not to disturb a setting so untouched by the modern world.
The second interest of the area is history. The Edisto Historical Museum is proactive in sustaining the genealogy and its lifestyle going back to when Native Americans ruled the land. Unfortunately the Edistow Indian tribe is no more, but you’ll see what they contributed to the island and marvel at their love for the place. The Edisto Island Land Trust subtly yet firmly rallies to avoid commercialization and over development of this pristine landscape.
And of course the final interest is beachcombing. With innumerable entrances to the sand, you avoid the parking lot mentality so many beaches have. Wherever you are on Edisto Beach, you are an easy saunter to the water. Walk your dog. In the winter he can run loose. Wet a line or search for shark,s teeth which are in fair abundance.
I can never be too long away from Edisto, and when my publisher asked where I intended to set the new series, my heart leaped at the opportunity to infuse that secluded environment into a series of mysteries. The romance, the enchantment, the healing power of its nature left no doubt in my mind that my protagonist could thrive, along with her readers who almost always ask how can they find their way to Edisto Beach.
When her husband is murdered by the Russian mob, Boston detective Callie Jean Morgan suffers a mental break and relinquishes her badge to return home to South Carolina. She has no idea how to proceed with her life, but her son deserves to move on with his, so she relocates them to the family vacation home. But the day they arrive on Edisto Beach, Callie finds her childhood mentor and elderly neighbor murdered. Her fragile sanity is threatened when the murderer taunts her, and the home that was to be her sanctuary is repeatedly violated. Callie loses her fight to walk away from law enforcement as she becomes the only person able to pursue the culprit who’s turned the coastal paradise into a paranoid patch of sand where nobody’s safe. But what will it cost her?