MYSTERY AT THE BLUE SEA COTTAGE

My Book Recommendation

MYSTERY AT THE BLUE SEA COTTAGE James Stewart

Set in Jazz Age San Diego against the backdrop of yellow journalism, notorious Hollywood scandals, Prohibition corruption and a lively culture war, Mystery At The Blue Sea Cottage tells the intriguing true story of a beautiful dancer, a playboy actor, and a debonair doctor. In January 1923, Fritzie Mann left home to meet a man whose identity she would forever keep a secret. The next morning, the barely clad body of the beautiful and bewitching dancer washed up on lonely Torrey Pines beach, her party dress and possessions strewn about. The scene baffled investigators. Was it suicide, murder, or an accidental drowning? A botched autopsy created more questions than it answered, revealing a scandalous secret and a powerful motive for murder. Journalists in southern California hyped the case, but when Fritzie’s Hollywood connections came to light the investigation shifted to L.A. and the story became a nation-wide sensation. An ambitious District Attorney battled a high-profile L.A. private counsel in the most sensational trial in San Diego’s history. The big question: What happened at the Blue Sea Cottage? 

As the car rolled to a stop, Chase’s nine-year-old son, Russell, hopped out and disappeared over the rocky embankment that led down to the beach. John Chase, a tall man with light brown hair, stepped out of the car into the fresh salt air. A bookkeeper in the fruit packing business, he was no stranger to the area and its ideal climate. The Chases had lived in Lemon Grove, a rural town east of San Diego, until a couple of years before, when John had taken a job in the lemon groves of the San Fernando Valley. John began to eat a sandwich. He had barely taken a bite when Russell came running back up the embankment.

There is a boy on the beach, Russell said. “He is laying very still.”  

The edge of the embankment blocked Chase’s view of the beach below. He stepped onto the car’s running board for a higher vantage point and spotted a human form lying a few hundred feet away near the surf. He told Russell to stay with his mother and began walking toward the figure, still holding his sandwich.

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James Stewart MYSTERY AT THE BLUE SEA COTTAGE
Author James Stewart

Torrey Pines beach, though a popular bathing spot, was deserted at 12:30 p.m. on a Monday in January. The onshore breeze was strangely calm, the silence broken only by the light rush of the breakers and periodic seagull squawks. Near the bottom of the embankment, Chase walked past a dark-brown beaded dress lying alongside a mound of pebbles and weeds. The dress lay flat and stretched out on a line toward the body, as though someone had dropped it and dragged it across the dry sand. As he neared the figure, he realized that it wasn’t a boy, but a young woman wearing only a pink silk teddy and garters, dark-brown silk stockings, and matching satin pumps.

The obviously dead woman appeared to be in her early twenties. She lay on her back parallel to the beach, ten or fifteen feet from the water’s edge, embedded about one and a half inches into the wet sand, her legs to the south towards La Jolla, her feet close together and her arms across her torso. Her dark wet hair lay loose and splayed out, mixed with sand and strings of kelp. Her bloodshot, partially opened eyes stared skyward. Her tongue protruded between her teeth. There was a small bluish bruise over her right eyebrow. The sand in the vicinity of the body had been washed smooth by the waves.

Chase walked back to the road, the partially eaten sandwich still in his hand. He never did finish it. He and Russell flagged down a passing car, asking the driver to stop at the garage up the road toward Del Mar and call the police.

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