Review: Lowcountry Boil by Susan M. Boyer

lowcountry boil by susan m boyerFormat read: ebook purchased from Amazon
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genre: mystery
Series: Liz Talbot #1
Length: 408 pages
Publisher: Henery Press
Date Released: September 18, 2012
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Private Investigator Liz Talbot is a modern Southern belle: she blesses hearts and takes names. She carries her Sig 9 in her Kate Spade handbag, and her golden retriever, Rhett, rides shotgun in her hybrid Escape. When her grandmother is murdered, Liz high-tails it back to her South Carolina island home to find the killer. She’s fit to be tied when her police-chief brother shuts her out of the investigation, so she opens her own. Then her long-dead best friend pops in and things really get complicated. When more folks start turning up dead in this small seaside town, Liz must use more than just her wits and charm to keep her family safe, chase down clues from the hereafter, and catch a psychopath before he catches her.

My Review:

lowcountry bombshell by susan m boyerI picked up Lowcountry Boil (and Lowcountry Bombshell) because I’m reading the third book in the series, Lowcountry Boneyard, next week for a tour. I picked the tour because I enjoy books that are set in or near places where I live, and the Carolina Lowcountry isn’t all that far from Atlanta.

I completely fell in love with this book, and raced through the entire series in just a couple of days. Liz Talbot is a terrific heroine; her adventures are hair-raising, while her family is hilarious.

Of course, sometimes that family is the cause of either her hair being raised, her adventures, or both.

There’s a quote from Harper Lee about families that goes, “You can choose your friends but you sho’ can’t choose your family, an’ they’re still kin to you no matter whether you acknowledge ’em or not, and it makes you look right silly when you don’t.”

Liz Talbot’s family are part of the reason that she really, truly loves the small island and town of Stella Maris. They are also the reason that she lives all the way across the state in Greenville. Until her grandmother is killed, and private investigator Liz finds herself the heir to her grandmother’s house, her Stella Maris town council seat, and quite possibly in the sights of her grandmother’s killer.

She’s certainly in the sights of her obviously sociopathic cousin Marci the Schemer, but then again, Liz has always been in Marci’s sights. Anything Liz had or wanted, Marci was determined to either spoil or steal from Liz, up to and including the man that everyone expected Liz would marry.

Liz has stayed away from Stella Maris ever since, at least in part because she couldn’t bear seeing Michael Devlin miserably married to Marci. Liz had also married, regretted it and divorced post-haste on the rebound, but at least she figured out what a bastard her ex-husband Scott really was. Michael either doesn’t have a clue about Marci, or doesn’t give a damn.

And Liz got something terrific out of the deal. Scott’s brother Nate is Liz’ business partner and best friend. She couldn’t have asked for a better person for either part of her life. It’s too bad that Nate and their successful business are in Greenville, while Liz is chasing friends, relatives and clues across the state on Stella Maris.

Where her brother is the Chief of Police and not happy that his sister is investigating (and making a target of herself) on his turf. He wants to protect her, but he needs her investigative skills. Blake is often on the horns of this particular dilemma, and the poor man never does figure out how to solve it.

Grandma Talbot was definitely murdered. The question that both Blake and Liz have to solve is motive. It turns out that everyone on the island is about to find themselves caught in the crossfire between those who want to develop their private little island at any cost, and those who want to keep things just the way they are.

Only one side is resorting to murder to get their way.

And Liz’ best assistant and defender is the ghost of her childhood best friend. But Colleen isn’t completely reliable, and isn’t corporeal enough to help Liz when the bullets start flying.

Or is she?

Escape Rating A: As I said at the top, I absolutely loved this one. Liz is just the kind of person I’d hope to be friends with. She’s smart, she has a good sense of humor and a great grasp of the absurd, and she keeps on going no matter what life throws at her, and usually goes with a laugh.

Yes, sometimes she rushes in where her brother wishes she feared to tread, but she takes the reader right there with her every time.

Her family is tremendous fun, well, except for Marci the Schemer. Most families have someone in them that you wish weren’t there, so Marci isn’t completely atypical. One of the interesting and all-too-real aspects of Marci’s history and character was the way that Liz’ mother keeps wanting to think the best, while even as a child Liz knew that there was something wrong with Marci. Which there so was.

The mystery in this story is convoluted, at least in part because everybody knows everyone so well. That’s both a strength and a weakness for the bad apples. There are so many people that no one wants to suspect of anything because everyone knows their parents and their families. It takes Liz, with both her stubbornness and a few years of distance, to see what has been under everyone’s nose all along.

The addition of Colleen the ghost as a main character was both fun and serious at the same time. Colleen is the guardian spirit of the island, and it’s her job to protect and sometimes help whoever holds the Talbot seat on the village council. While it’s possible to think of Colleen as some manifestation of Liz’ conscience or hunches, she feels like a real character. She makes Liz question herself at just the right moments.

While the mystery in this story was multi-layered and very well done, it was the family dynamics and the complexity of Liz’ character that kept me turning pages and sometimes tickled my funny bone. This book (and this series) are a real treat!

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.
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