Katie Hassworth

Created by Dorothy Francis

It’s a hell of a way to become a private eye.

KATIE HASSWORTH was an English teacher in Miami who resigned after a school shooting (back when it wasn’t a regular occurrence), in which she was wounded a few years ago.

Seems a student with some serious “issues” brought a gun to school (as one does) and shot her, another student, and finally himself. She teamed up with ex-cop Mac McCartel, the shooter’s P.I. father, to find the son’s drug supplier, whom he blamed for the incident (Yeah, blame the drugs). They tracked the dealer down, and the team-up worked. Now she and Mac run a McCartel and Hassworth Detective Agency in Key West, and except for occasional PTSD flare-ups, she’s doing okay.

In the well-received Conch Shell Murder (2003), Katie’s recorded debut, the agency is hired to investigate the murder of a prominent (and controversial) entrepreneur who was beaten to death with a conch shell (a nice Florida touch). With Mac away in Tallahassee on another case, newly minted private investigator Katie nervously flies solo for the first time, while trying to deal with the amorous attentions of Rex Layton, the town’s tanned and handsome hunk of a mayor, who may also be a suspect.

Not exactly what you’d call hard-boiled, but this cozy romance’s sharp local colour (it’s soaking in it) and lore go a long way towards making this an enjoyable read. And it’s always fun watching the well-written steps of an affable rookie going through the paces of her first big case.

I’m still sorta surprised there wasn’t a sequel…


  • “Most Key West mysteries lean toward the hard-boiled, but this one gives cozy fans a chance to enjoy Margaritaville, too.”
    — Baraara Bibel (Booklist)
  • “(a) stylish, fast-moving adult mystery debut… Local lore, history, food, and fauna and flora add interest without overburdening a smoothly written and suspenseful tale.”
    — Publishers Weekly



  • May 4, 2023
    The Bottom Line: English teacher suffering from PTSD after a Florida school shooting turns P.I.  in this enjoyable standalone from 2003 (when school shooting didn’t happen on a regular basis). Why no sequel?

Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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