Two new novels by SLO County authors are perfect winter reads

The winter weather outside is frightful. Wouldn’t it be delightful to stay indoors with a good book?

Whether you’re in the mood for a murder-mystery with lots of local details or a gritty urban thriller, Central Coast authors have plenty to offer. Here are two novels that span the spectrum.

Obituary writer-turned-amateur sleuth Bella Kowalski is back on the case in “Murder at Cuyamaca Beach,” the latest from Los Osos mystery writer Sue McGinty.

Bella, a former nun, made her first appearance in “Murder in Los Lobos,” investigating the murder of a local businesswoman and nursing emotional wounds caused by her sister’s yet unsolved slaying.

Here, she finds herself in the midst of an even scarier situation.

Five years after real estate broker Loreli Sereno died in a freak kayaking accident off the coast of Cuyamaca Beach, her surfer sister Magda turns up dead during the town’s popular Polar Bear Dip.

Bella suspects foul play, but she’s already got plenty on her plate – including mounting debts, a harried husband and a troubled nephew who’s run away from home.

Can she crack the case before she becomes the mysterious killer’s next victim?

As in “Murder in Los Lobos,” McGinty treats readers to thinly veiled references to Central Coast landmarks – the Elfin Forest, Estero Bay and Los Osos Valley Road, to name a few -- and familiar figures. There’s a maverick rancher who runs a homeless shelter, and a wealthy family with wine industry ties.

Stuffed with surprises and spiced with humor, “Murder at Cuyamaca Beach” makes for a fun, brisk read.

A young woman’s ties with a fierce female gangbanger, a vengeful hip-hop mogul and a notorious racketeer land her in hot water in “Hailey’s War,” a new novel by San Luis Obispo author Jodi Compton.

Compton’s previous two books, “The 37th Hour” and “Sympathy Between Humans,” starred Minneapolis Sheriff's Det. Sarah Pribek, a capable yet vulnerable investigator specializing in missing-person cases.

Hailey Cain, the 24-year-old protagonist of “Hailey’s War,” is an even more complicated character.

A bike messenger and military school dropout, Hailey prefers to keeps a low profile. But when her best friend, Los Angeles gang leader Serena Delgadillo, asks her to smuggle 19-year-old Nidia into Mexico, she agrees to undertake the dangerous mission.

What Hailey doesn’t know is that Nidia is pregnant with the grandchild of Anton “Tony” Skouras, a Greek-American antiquities smuggler and human trafficker. And he wants his heir.

With the Trece Sucias by her side and an army of bad guys on her trail, Hailey must put her West Point training to the test to survive.

A taut crime thriller, “Hailey’s War” delivers a look at the dark, desperate side of society, where violence and brutality reigns. Readers will recognize the settings -- San Francisco, Los Angeles and the Sierras – but the situations are more exotic.