And Emerald Coast was born

Published 1:37 pm Saturday, September 2, 2023

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By R.A. Mathews

Alice reads murder mysteries. Who knew?

Alice is the 85-year-old greeter at a church I attend in a mid-Atlantic state, when I’m in that area. I treasure Alice and talk to her several times a week, but I didn’t know she liked to read. And mysteries, no less.

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The discovery came a few days ago when I mentioned my novel. I hadn’t told Alice— honestly, I didn’t think she’d be interested.

“What’s the name of it?” she asked.

“Emerald Coast. I’ve been working on it for years, Alice. In fact, I published the first volume in 2012, decided it was too violent, and let it go out of print.”

“But what is the Emerald Coast?”

Yes, there is a whole world out there that has never heard of what we take for granted. “It looks like a Caribbean coastline, Alice. Clear emerald water lapping at sugar-white sand. Breathtakingly beautiful.”

“Where is it?” she asked.

I explained that the Emerald Coast is roughly a hundred miles long, starting near Panama City and extending past Pensacola, and that Destin sits almost at the halfway mark.

“A massive, shimmering blue bay sits on one side of the city, Alice, and the Gulf is on the other, giving the area the look and feel of a long narrow island. In fact, you can easily walk or bike across it, moving from Gulf shore to bay shore in no time.”

I explained to her that if you hike east along the white-sand beach, houses and high-rise condos eventually give way to a hundred acres of virgin, unspoiled land—the same as when the first explorers arrived on the Emerald Coast.

“This area is now a protected preserve, Alice. Bordered on one side by a secluded cluster of homes. A secret enclave of sorts.” 

I lived near Destin for years and walked that beach every day. I remember watching as an exquisite beach house was built in that village. There was nothing to the immediate east of the house but all of that unspoiled coastline.

Day after day, as I passed the house, I saw security trucks outside, protecting the expensive building supplies going into the structure. But once the house was completed, a law enforcement vehicle remained there. Eventually, I learned that this beautiful home was built by a well-known person, who hires an off-duty lawman to babysit it at night.

As you know, owning a home anywhere on the Gulf requires wealth, even more so on the Emerald Coast. And this tucked away community is a gem within a gem. 

The story of the “babysitting” obviously hints at a sort of Great Gatsby opulence—wealth that can easily afford a lawman watching over such a property night after night.

I’m a writer and immediately I thought: What a great place for a mystery. 

The situation of the lawman also intrigued me. An author couldn’t ask for a better character than an investigator separated from his normal world, suddenly enjoying one of wealth and privilege. 

With the stroke of a writer’s pen, the lawman is abruptly thrust into the scene of a shooting—he discovers a beloved actress shot on her wedding night. She slips into a coma, leaving behind a three-word clue. That’s when the young lawman finds himself navigating all the lies, he is about to be told. 

And thus, Emerald Coast was born.

I was called to the ministry when I was 20. Called to be a faith columnist in 2015, to share the Bible with those who long to know more. 

But I knew much earlier that the Lord meant for me to reach a different person. There’s a whole world out there—hundreds of millions of people who have never lifted their voice to speak to Father, Son, or Holy Spirit. They don’t know that God listens, that He guides, that He comforts, that He cares. 

Emerald Coast isn’t a Christian book. It’s a whodunit with riveting suspense and some fun, quirky characters. I wrote it to fit with all the other fast-paced, suspense-filled mysteries. 

But the reader will find characters who know God and rely on Him. This is how a person can come to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They learn by watching. We all do.

It took a decade. Emerald Coast became an intricate mystery told across multi-volumes, each part ending with a cliff-hanger.

It’s available now as an e-book on Amazon. The print and large-print volumes will be available soon. 

I hope Alice likes my book. I hope you like it, too.

The Rev. Mathews, BA, MDiv, JD, is a newspaper faith columnist and the author of the suspense-filled mystery, Emerald Coast. Contact her at

Copyright © 2021, 2023 R.A. Mathews. All rights reserved.