Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Lowcountry Bordello (A Liz Talbot Mystery #4)

Author:  Susan M. Boyer
Genre:  Mystery

Paperback, E-book
ISBN #:  9781943390175
Henery Press
272 Pages
$15.95; $6.99 Kindle
November 3, 2015
Five Stars

The Charleston streets are dressed for the holidays in sophisticated Southern style:  topiaries adorned with red ribbons, garland entwined with white lights, and poinsettias potted in gold planters.  The high class bordello in a stately historic home is certainly no exception.  When Private Investigator Liz Talbot's dear friend Olivia swears she saw a dead body in the parlor of this bordello, one Olivia accidentally co-owns, Liz promptly comes to her aid.

With her wedding back home on Stella Maris less than a week away, Liz must juggle one elderly madam, two ex and future in-laws, three ghosts in the bordello, four giddy bridesmaids, five lovely courtesans, six suspicious patrons...and a partridge in a pear tree as she tries to keep her bridesmaid out of jail and live to walk down the aisle.


It's Christmastime in Charleston, and also four days before Liz Talbot is finally marrying Nate Andrews, and she's deep into preparations when Robert, the husband of one of her bridesmaids, calls her for an urgent meeting.  It seems he wants to hire her because he believes his wife Olivia is having an affair.  Since Olivia is one of Liz's oldest friends, she urges Robert to find someone else.  But later that night she receives another urgent call, this time from Olivia, who insists that Robert is dead, killed inside the home of her Aunt Dean, who owns a 'boardinghouse' for young women, the 'nieces' of powerful Charleston men.

When Liz arrives and convinces Olivia to go back inside, there is no body - no evidence at all of any kind of a murder.  Yet Olivia is insistent that someone was dead on the rug, and even though Robert is alive and well, Liz is suspicious.  Especially when, the next day, there is a body which turns up in a nearby park.  Olivia is now afraid that it will somehow lead back to her aunt and that if any scandal leaks out about the home, it will ruin her family's life, so begs Liz to investigate.

Her curiosity piqued, Liz agrees to help Olivia - for one day.  She tells her that if she doesn't find any evidence of foul play, she'll end the case and proceed with wedding preparations.  But, unfortunately, Liz does find evidence.  And there are enough suspects in the murder to man a baseball team.  She has the young ladies of Aunt Dean's residence; Olivia's cousin Seth, resident handyman, and the women's suitors all to sift through, hoping to find if any one - or more - is connected to the murder and how.  So when Olivia is arrested for the murder, Liz has the critical task of finding the real killer before she needs to find another bridesmaid...

Along with this, her last-minute wedding preparations are getting hairy.  She still has a dress fitting, rehearsal, an early Christmas with her family, and dealing with Nate's parents - who are soon to be her in-laws and have been her ex-in-laws (a long story involving her first marriage to Nate's brother Scott the Scoundrel), which aren't making her life any easier.  And there's always Colleen, her best friend from high school who is now her guardian spirit (in a way) who is helping her with the case but she can't tell Nate about, or Colleen goes away forever.  Whew.  That's a lot of problems to be dealing with at once.

But Liz, who is as smart as she is determined, isn't about to let a small thing like a wedding get in the way of her finding out the truth - even if it puts her own life in danger.  And when she starts digging into the lives of the women and their suitors, she finds out more than she bargained for, and not only could put her life in danger, but that of the women themselves.

That's all I'm going to tell you about this book except to say it is wonderfully written, and while all the characters may seem confusing, it's certainly worth the read.  Not a single one is superfluous to the story; and it's worth writing all the characters down to keep them straight if you need to do so.

The tale had me riveted right to the end.  Yes, it began to feel pretty frenetic, but that's what weddings are when you get close to the date, and Liz had the unenviable task of also solving a murder, so the pace of the book stayed right in line with what would have happened in real life.  And I always believe that if it wouldn't happen in real life, it shouldn't happen in a book (some genres excused).

There is a pretty humorous scene towards the end involving Nate's mother Glyn and Liz's father, which had me smiling, and added a dose of lightheartedness, right where it needed to be.  When the case is wrapped up, it becomes more involved than anyone could ever have thought, and Ms. Boyer doesn't disappoint.  Highly recommended.

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