If you love cosy mysteries and you love charming English coastal towns, Julie Wassmer's Whitstable Pearl series is one you won't want to miss. The delightful series has seven entries to date, with an eighth (Strictly Murder) on the way.
There's also a brand-new TV series coming soon, commissioned by popular British TV streamer Acorn TV and produced by Buccaneer Media.
What are the Whitstable Pearl Books About?
Before we get into the list of novels, let's take a look at what it's all about. The series takes place in Whitstable, Kent, a seaside resort town in the southeastern corner of England. It's a town known for its oysters, and you'd be hard-pressed to visit without noticing evidence of that. We'll talk a bit more about the location at the end of this post.
The main character is Pearl Nolan, a local restaurant owner who, in the first book, decides to open a private detective agency. That might seem a bit silly at first glance, but we soon learn that she will be drawing upon police training received earlier in life. Until a surprise pregnancy, she'd been planning on joining the police force – and now that her son is heading off to university in nearby Canterbury, she's ready to get back to her interest in solving mysteries.
Along with Pearl and her son, we'll get to know her free-spirited mother Dolly. She lives nearby and also works in the restaurant.
Like all good cosies, the Whitstable Pearl series has DCI Mike McGuire – an officer who will grow to appreciate and grumble at Pearl for her interference.
It could be said that the town itself is also a character in this series. While some cosy series limit themselves to only the most essential descriptions of location, Wassmer frequently goes off into mini history lessons about Whitstable and the surrounding area (something likely to appeal to some, while others will probably skip over those bits).
All of Julie Wassmer's Whitstable Pearl Books in Order
We've compiled this list as of early 2021, and we'll update when there's more news on the eighth book in the series.
Book 1 – The Whitstable Pearl Mystery
The first book in the series introduces us to Pearl Nolan and her detective aspirations. Sadly, her first case begins with the murder of friend and local oyster fisherman Vinnie Rowe on the eve of the annual oyster festival. She'll have to find out whether it was a tragic accident, or something more sinister.
Book 2 – Murder-on-Sea
The second Whitstable Pearl book, Murder-on-Sea, sees Pearl Nolan preparing for the busy Christmas season. She's pledged not to take on any cases until after Christmas, so when someone starts sending poison pen Christmas cards, she agrees it's best left to DCI Mike McGuire.
Unfortunately, a guest at the church's Christmas fundraiser drops dead, and it soon begins to look like there's more murder to come in her close-knit small community. How can she NOT get involved?
Book 3 – May Day Murder
Spring has arrived, and both residents and visitors to Whitstable are eager to enjoy the warmer weather. As May Day festivities approach, Pearl's friend Nathan has arranged for a famous actress (and Whitstable native) to return and open the events.
Unfortunately, the actress has become something of a diva in her time away from the town, and when she doesn't show up at the appointed time, Nathan realises he made a mistake in inviting her. It's not until the beginning of the parade that her body is found, and they see she had a very good reason for being absent.
Book 4 – Murder on the Pilgrims Way
This entry sees Pearl gifted a summer break at a riverside manor house near Canterbury. Her mother wanted to surprise her, and while it seems quite nice initially, Pearl is soon disappointed to learn she's also booked in for a cookery course with an arrogant Italian celebrity chef.
She tries to make the best of it, but it's not long before one of her fellow guests goes missing – and of course, that's her cue to investigate.
Book 5 – Disappearance at Oare
Disappearance at Oare sees Pearl taking on a cold case. She's been approached by a woman whose husband disappeared seven years earlier, leaving her alone and expecting.
Now, with her legally presumed dead, she wants Pearl's help to solve the mystery. DCI Mike McGuire thinks she's crazy to take on the challenge, but as a fellow single mother, the case resonates with her.
Book 6 – Murder Fest
This book sees Whitstable preparing for an arts festival, with Pearl volunteering to welcome visitors from Whitstable's twin city in Germany.
On the eve of the festival's first event, local police receive a strange message: “Murder Fest”. Before DCI Mike McGuire can investigate, a celebrated author is found dead. Never one to turn away from murder in her own town, Pearl sets out to find the culprit.
Book 7 – Murder on the Downs
When a controversial new property development threatens to encroach upon the green, open space of the downs, more than a few Whitstable residents get upset. Tensions escalate, and it strains Pearl's relationship with DCI Mike McGuire, who's worried things will get out of control.
Amidst the protests, a body is found on the downs. Could the murder be related to the development and protests? Whatever it is, Pearl is determined to get to the bottom of it.
Book 8 – Strictly Murder (Coming Soon)
Note: The publisher description for this one has a mild spoiler, and we're intentionally leaving that bit out in our paraphrase below. We recommend that if you're not caught up, you avoid reading any other descriptions of this upcoming title.
Though Pearl's never been the dancer of the family (that's her mum Dolly), a new dance school in town has her signing up for lessons. Unfortunately, it's not long before it's literally “murder on the dance floor”.
With a brutal murderer stalking the school, she and DCI Mike McGuire will have to get to the bottom of it quickly.
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Where is Whitstable Pearl Based? What is Whitstable Like?
The Whitstable Pearl series is based in Whitstable, England, a seaside town in the county of Kent. The town has a population of roughly 32,000, but it swells with tourists in the summer – especially during the annual Oyster Festival.
You can get from London to Whitstable in less than an hour and a half by train, which makes it a popular destination for second home owners and those looking for a weekend out of the city.
Above, you can see some of the beach huts along the coast – sure to be familiar to anyone who's read the first book of the series. Below, you can click around to “walk” through the town. Keep an eye out for those little alleyways Pearl references. She mentions that locals know of them, but tourists mainly stick to the streets.
Walk Around Whitstable, England
Click inside the image below to virtually walk around Whitstable. It works best on desktop, but phone or tablet should work, too.
Have You Read the Whistable Pearl Books?
Have you read the Whitstable Pearl series? Will you be watching the TV series when it premieres on Acorn TV in May (the 24th)?
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