Review: Lowcountry Boneyard by Susan M. Boyer

lowcountry boneyard by susan m boyerFormat read: print ARC provided by the publisher
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook
Genre: mystery
Series: Liz Talbot #3
Length: 286 pages
Publisher: Henery Press
Date Released: April 21, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Where is Kent Heyward? The twenty-three-year-old heiress from one of Charleston’s oldest families vanished a month ago. When her father hires private investigator Liz Talbot, Liz suspects the most difficult part of her job will be convincing the patriarch his daughter tired of his overbearing nature and left town. That’s what the Charleston Police Department believes.

But behind the garden walls South of Broad, family secrets pop up like weeds in the azaleas. The neighbors recollect violent arguments between Kent and her parents. Eccentric twin uncles and a gaggle of cousins covet the family fortune. And the lingering spirit of a Civil-War-era debutante may know something if Colleen, Liz’s dead best friend, can get her to talk.

Liz juggles her case, the partner she’s in love with, and the family she adores. But the closer she gets to what has become of Kent, the closer Liz dances to her own grave.

My Review:

It’s possible to call this series “paranormal mysteries” but they really are contemporary mysteries with one important paranormal element.

Liz Talbot sees ghost. Not plural, singular. The only ghost she sees is her late (14 years late and counting) and much lamented best friend Colleen.

But while Liz has grown up and almost moved on in the intervening years, Colleen remains 17, and says that she is the spirit guardian of Liz’ home island of Stella Maris. Colleen is visible, and very definitely audible, to Liz because who or whatever the powers-that-be are believe that Liz’ presence back on Stella Maris and its town council are the best chance for the island to remain the relatively pristine hideaway it has always been.

But Liz has a problem. Her long-distance relationship with her business and romantic partner Nate is starting to run into rocky shoals. Nate wants them to at least split their time between the company’s, and his, home base in Greenville and Liz’ home and extended family on Stella Maris.

He can’t know just how many times Colleen has intervened to save Liz’ (and his) lives so as to help maintain that status quo, or that Liz will lose Colleen’s protection if she leaves the island and gives up her council seat.

Liz and Colleen are trying to find a compromise, while Nate is increasingly frustrated and unhappy with the situation. It doesn’t help that Nate knows all too much about Liz’ love life. She left Stella Maris to marry his bastard of a brother, and stayed away because her first love was on Stella Maris and unhappily married to her own cousin.

Nate figures that if she could pick where she lived based on who she loved before, she must not love him as much if she won’t at least compromise on Greenville for him. While we can all agree that his thinking is a bit skewed, or screwed, it is very, very human.

Meanwhile, they have a case in Charleston, one that is much bigger and more dangerous than either of them expected. A rich, young woman has been missing for a month, and no one has been able to find a clue concerning her whereabouts. Her family is one of the founding families of the city, but she is 23 and without evidence, the police can’t help but think that her disappearance was voluntary.

No one on the Charleston P.D. is very happy when Liz starts turning up clues that they missed, along with a tangled web of classism, elitism, and family secrets.

Not all of them her own.

Escape Rating A-: There’s that old saying about power corrupting and absolute power corrupting absolutely. There’s also the one attributed to Ben Franklin, that three can keep a secret if two are dead.

Kent Heyward, the missing heiress, is heir to two of Charleston’s great family fortunes. Her family, especially her powerful grandparents, are all too used to getting their own way in every single thing. While they close ranks and protect their secrets, they seem to think they are so powerful that none of their secrets will ever get out, or that they will be able to completely suppress those secrets, by murder if necessary.

If only Kent really had run away. She would have been much better off with some other family, because her own family’s secrets have made her a target.

A lot of the nasty business in this story revolves around classism. The rich aren’t just different from you and me, but in this story, they think they are better. To the point where marrying outside the class is an excuse for kidnapping and murder. But it’s an old case that comes back to haunt them where it hurts the most.

As Liz investigates, its not so much whether she will uncover anything illegal, but rather how much she will uncover. And whether any of the people who have something to hide can afford to let her live, even if her death would leave Kent unfound and unmourned.

While she is investigating, Liz is also dealing with a personal crisis. She loves Nate, but she can’t leave Stella Maris. And she can’t tell him why. Nate’s reactions are not particularly adult or particularly sensible.

And in the background, there is Liz’ marvelous and slightly crazy family. Their deep roots on Stella Maris are sometimes a help, as is her brother the island Chief of Police, but dodging their attempts to protect her or take care of her often result in some crazy situations.

Her mother is hilarious in fiction, but I’ll admit would drive me nuts in a heartbeat.

The case that Liz is investigating has tons of twists and turns that keep the reader from figuring out both whodunnit and their motive for the entire way. Especially when the repeated attempts on Liz’ life intervene to confuse matters and motives.

I raced through this book to find out who, what and why, because I got so involved in the plot. Plots. Lots of bad people with lots of plots, some more successful than others. All wrapped up at the end with a lovely, but slightly bittersweet, happy ending.

Readers who like their heroines with smarts and brass and slightly zany friends and families will eat this series up like a slice of Key Lime Pie. Take your first bite with Lowcountry Boil (reviewed here) and enjoy!

This post is part of a TLC book tour. Click on the logo for more reviews.
***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.

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.