Friday, January 1, 2016

Death and the Brewmaster's Widow (An Auction Block Mystery)

Author:  Loretta Ross
Genre:  Mystery

Paperback; Ebook
ISBN #:  9780738747057
Midnight Ink Publishing
264 Pages
$14.99; $11.99 Kindle
February 8, 2016
Five Stars

They call it "the Brewmaster's Widow", the abandoned brewery where Death Bogart's brother died in an arson fire.

With his girlfriend, Wren Morgan, Death goes home to St. Louis to take on a deeply personal mystery.  When Randy Bogart went into the Einstadt Brewery, he left his broken badge behind at the firehouse.  So why did the coroner find one on his body?  Every answer leads to more questions.  Why did the phony badge have the wrong number?  Who set the brewery fire?  What is the connection between Randy's death and the mysterious Cherokee Caves, where the opulent playground of 19th century beer barons falls into slow decay?

Not understanding how and why he lost his brother is breaking the ex-Marine's heart.  But the Brewmaster's Widow is jealous of her secrets.  Prising them loose could cost Death and Wren both their lives.

********

Death (pronounced Deeth) Bogart is an ex-Marine-turned bounty hunter.  His girlfriend, Wren Morgan, is an auctioneer.  Having just recently finished an investigation and solved a case, he receives a visit from his late brother's fire captain, 'Cap' Cairn.  He has come because it seems Randy's estate still needs to be settled.  It turns out that Randy, under the assumption that Death had been killed overseas, and not liking his widow (at the time) Madeline, created a new will and left everything to the fire station.  But the captain, finding Death alive, wants to return everything to him.  He also brought him Randy's silver shield, which puzzles Death.

It puzzles him because he already has the shield the coroner sent him.  Which becomes an even bigger puzzle when Cap asks him where the coroner got it, and Death tells him it was taken off Randy's body; but Cap says that's impossible because he snapped the back off his badge the morning he was killed, and there wasn't time to have it repaired.  An even bigger mystery ensues when it is discovered that the badges have two different numbers on them - 4103, Randy's number, is on the badge Cap brought, and 4183 is on the badge given to Death by the coroner.  But that number belongs to a very live firefighter.

And even though Cap does his best to convince Death that Randy is dead, Death is sure something else is happening, and so he sets out for St. Louis to find the truth surrounding his brother's demise.  When he arrives, he meets several of Randy's coworkers who were with him that day, and who also tell him that they saw Randy's body, and that he's definitely dead.  Missing Wren, and her missing him as well, he phones her and is told by her employer Roy Keystone that she's on her way to St. Louis.

When Wren arrives, she finds out Death has already consulted the coroner, Sophie Depardieu, who only enforces what everyone else has told him - Randy is dead, and she took the badge off the body herself.  But already knowing what she knows, and listening to Death add what he's learned, she's also convinced something else is afoot, and wants to help him get to the truth of the matter.  And what Death and Wren find could just get them killed in the process.

When Death takes ill from roaming around in caves - his lungs are damaged from an incident when he was in Afghanistan - Wren decides to take over the investigation, vowing to keep him in the dark until he's at least on the way to recovery, and enlisting some unlikely help along the way from Randy's coworker Rowdy's wife Annie.  To add to the problems, Death's ex-wife Madeline shows up, still trying to make him jealous and believing she has a chance of getting him back - but Wren proves more than a match for her, and isn't about to let him go.

I enjoyed this book immensely.  Death and Wren are still finding their way around their relationship, although it isn't the main focus of the story, which is nice.  We are given a fully rounded mystery, with enough plot turns to keep us interested and, as with me, reading well into the night.  These aren't one-dimensional characters by any stretch of the imagination, and Wren's employers, the Keystones, are a hoot, and I wish I knew them in real life.

This is the second book in the series, and Ms. Ross has again given us an intricate story full of deception and lies, with enough twists to make even a pretzel maker sit up and take notice.  I only wish I could add more to what I've already said, but, unfortunately, anything else would be giving away too much and I don't want to ruin the story for anyone.  Suffice it to say that if you've read her first work, Death and the Redheaded Woman, you'll be delighted to know that this one proves her work isn't just a one-time thing; and if you haven't read it, I suggest you do.  Not that this can't be read as a stand-alone; (she gives enough information on Death's past that you don't feel lost throughout the book as with some authors) but you'll enjoy it more with having also read the first. 

Kudos to Ms. Ross for another captivating mystery, and I eagerly await the next in the series.  Highly recommended.






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